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Paying for a care home

Paying for residential care in a care home is expensive. There is some help available to meet the cost, but the care system can be complicated and difficult to find your way through.

How much will I have to pay for care?

The local Health and Social Care (HSC) Trust works out how much you need to pay for your residential care or nursing home fees.

Before your financial assessment, make sure you get all the benefits you're entitled to. This is important because your contribution to your home fees will be based on all income, including benefits.

When you pay towards your home fees, you must have £25.27 remaining a week to spend as you want. This is known as the Personal Expenses Allowance (PEA). If you get the mobility component of Disability Living Allowance, you will keep getting it.

How could my finances and property affect my care home fees?

Here’s how the means test for social care will look at your capital and how this will affect your care home fees.

Amount of your capital (your savings and property) What you will have to pay 
Over £23,250 You must pay full fees (known as being self-funding)
 Between £14,250 and £23,250 Capital between these amounts will be calculated as providing you with an income of £1 per week for every £250 of your savings
 Less than £14,250 This will be ignored and won't be included in the means-test. However they will still take your eligible income into account.

Certain types of income, such as money from certain disability benefits and pensions, may not be counted in the means test. This is the same for certain types of capital. All other income and capital can be taken into account.

If you own your home, it counts as capital 12 weeks after you move permanently into a care home.

The value of your own home doesn't count as capital if certain close relatives still live there.


What if I give away some of my money?

You may think about giving away some of your savings, income or property to avoid paying likely care costs, and to give something to your relatives or charity, for example.

If the HSC Trust thinks that you have done this to avoid paying care fees they may still assess you as if you still had the money or property that you have given away. This is referred to as deprivation of assets.

What if I run out of money?

If you are paying fees yourself (called self-funding) and your capital will drop below £23,250, you should request an assessment a few months before that happens. The HSC Trust should arrange a care home as soon as possible, so you don’t have to use up your capital below that amount.

How do I pay my part of the care fees?

Generally the local Health and Social Care Trust pays the full amount to the home and then collects the amount you need to pay from you.

This may be different if you are paying a ‘third party top-up fee', where you have chosen a care home that costs more than the local authority will pay for (see below).

Do I get a choice about which care home I live in?

If you are paying for your own care, you can choose which care home to live in.

If the local Health and Social Care Trust is paying some or all of your costs, you still have the right to choose your care home, although this is subject to certain conditions. This also applies to people who will fund their own residential care to start with, but may need the local Health and Social Care Trust assistance with the fees later.

If you prefer a particular care home, the local Health and Social Care Trust must try to arrange accommodation in that home, as long as the following criteria are met:

  • the home chosen is suitable to meet your assessed needs
  • it doesn’t cost more than the local Health and Social Care Trust would expect for this type of accommodation
  • the provider is willing to enter into a contract on the Health and Social Care Trust usual terms
  • the care home is within the UK.

See our page on finding a care home for more information

What if I prefer a more expensive care home than the local Health and Social Care Trust will pay for?

If you'd prefer to live in a care home that costs more than the local Health and Social Care Trust would usually expect to pay, it can arrange this, provided that someone else is willing to meet the difference in cost.

This is usually known as a third-party top-up.

What if I only need to stay in a care home temporarily?

Some people go into a care home on a temporary basis to give themselves or their carers a break‚ or while they are recuperating from an illness. Others enter a home temporarily for a ‘trial’ period to decide whether they want to live permanently in that home.

If you only need to stay in a care home for a little while, your fees will be calculated differently as it is presumed that you will return home.

Further information

Age NI Advice Service

Every year our Advice Service deals with thousands of calls from older people in need. Call us today to make sure that you are receiving all the help and support available to you.

Call freephone 0808 808 7575
8am – 7pm 365 days a year


Last updated: Jun 25 2019

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