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  • November 03, 2021



For most people, the realisation that you or someone you love needs specialised care is challenging enough. What can make it worse is anxiety over paying for these services.

The sad fact is that in the UK, social care is rarely free for the recipient. Most people will need to contribute something towards the costs of their care services. However, there’s also significant funding of care by the Government which, in many cases, can help to cover some of the costs.

Continuing healthcare or social care?

When it comes to paying for care, it’s important to realise that there’s a difference between continuing healthcare and social care. Continuing healthcare is paid for by the NHS and is free to the recipient. By contrast, social care usually has to be paid for. Working out which type of care is required isn’t always straightforward. For example, when our customers require support, their needs don’t necessarily fit into one neat category.

Various online guides are available to help explain the difference, and professionals who work within the system are experienced in making the distinctions.

Understanding funding: where do you start?

To get an overview of how paying for social care works, we recommend this NHS webpage as a good start point, and it links to other authoritative resources. 

In addition, several UK charities provide useful summaries of how social care is funded. Although these will be adapted for particular audiences, the general guidance will apply to other people needing care.

Age UK in particular offers readable, straightforward guidance. Other good sources offering varying degrees of detail include:

For advice that’s specific to England, the info4care website does a great job of gathering together a wide range of information.

Getting more specific funding guidance

Although these overviews are useful for general guidance, they can’t provide the crucial information of what funding is available for your specific circumstances.

For that, the place to start is your local council.

Here’s how the process works:

  1. First, a care assessment (also known as a needs assessment) has to be arranged. You can do this yourself or agree to have someone else do it on your behalf.
  2. Next a care professional will be in touch and assess how you are managing. This usually involves a face-to-face visit, though some assessments are also done over the phone or online.
  3. With your permission, your circumstances will be discussed with other professionals, such as your GP.
  4. If the assessor decides care is needed, you will be sent a care plan. This sets out what you’d like to achieve with support, the professionals’ assessment of your needs, and a statement of what the council can provide.
  5. You will also be given a means test. This assesses what payments you have to make towards the care provided. It’s based on your financial circumstances.

Every local council will have sections on their website with further details and online forms you can access to start the ball rolling. For example, Wiltshire Council provide a plain English guide to their services, with links to all the appropriate forms. And Gloucestershire County Council has a clearly set out menu system to help you navigate your way to the info you need, including a link to Your Circle - a useful directory for finding your way around care and support in Gloucestershire.

If the online world seems too complicated to navigate, councils will also provide contact numbers if you prefer to talk the process through.

If you’re not sure which council covers your situation, just enter your postcode on the Government’s council search page.

How much will I have to pay towards care?

The amount you pay towards care depends on three main factors:

  • the cost of the care services needed
  • what your local council agrees to pay for
  • your financial assets and income.

Once again Age UK does an excellent job of summarising what your local council includes within your income and assets to work out your means.

A common concern for homeowners needing care is that their property will need to be sold in order to pay for care services. This may be the case if you need to move permanently, or for a long period, into a care home. However, if you share your home with a partner, a relative who is disabled and/or over 60, or an under-18 year-old, your home isn’t counted towards your assets.

If your home does need to be sold to pay for your care, it’s likely that the council will agree to a deferred payment agreement. In effect, the council loans you the money to pay for care now, on the promise that this can be recouped from the value of your home later (and possibly after your death).

If you need care outside of a care home, or you are in a care home for less than 12 weeks, your home is never counted as part of your capital.

Sources of funding

If you’re in need of care, the most widely available source of financial help is the attendance allowance. Payments are made to people who are State Pension age or older, and/or to people with mental or physical disabilities. Rates depend on the severity of your needs: the lower rate is currently £60 a week; the higher rate is £89.60. The payment is very flexible — you decide what you want to spend the money on.

Unfortunately, according to leading charities, many cared-for people miss out on what they’re entitled to.

If you’re in receipt of Attendance Allowance, you may also be eligible for other benefits, including:

  • Pension Credit
  • Housing benefit
  • Reduced Council Tax

Don’t forget that carers — in other words, anyone who helps substantially with care without being paid — can also receive financial help in the form of Carer’s Allowance.

The funding jungle

Navigating the funding of care can sometimes feel like a jungle, especially at first. But don’t despair: help is at hand from competent professionals and a plethora of articles online. And although we can’t cover everything in our own brief post, we hope at least we have signposted some useful resources.

Retain Healthcare is a leading provider of outcome-focused in-home care and support for individuals in the South West. Retain also recruits healthcare workers and provides high quality healthcare training. For all enquiries, please contact




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