Social care planning: what you should know

Understand your exposure to the cost of social care writes Sharon Bonfield
social care planning

Have you ever stopped to think about social care planning? What your needs would be? How you would pay, if necessary? Few people plan for how they will meet the cost of paying for care should the need arise. Decisions about care are more often than not made at a time of crisis and navigating the social care system can feel overwhelming and complex.

Whatever your current position, it will always pay to be prepared. Having a good understanding of options, benefits and support that are available to you (regardless of your financial situation), and costs involved with these services, as well as ensuring some simple planning is done in advance, can help you and your loved ones save a lot of time and expense.

Identifying needs

If you feel you’re not managing in the way you used to – or the same is true for a loved one – before taking any other action, it’s crucial to work out what level of care is required. This may seem blindingly obvious, but it’s often an incredibly difficult and emotional conversation to have with the people around you.

It’s important to ask questions such as: Is there a need simply because you or your loved one is getting older and requires a bit more help? Or is it because there’s a medical problem – which could be physical or mental – that needs regular support? And how are things likely to develop in the months and years to come?

You can contact the social services department of your local authority and ask them to conduct a care needs assessment. This will enable them to identify what social care planning is required and either arrange care or point you in the right direction.

The different types of social care available

Once you have answers to the questions above, it then becomes easier to understand the type of care you require. This generally falls into two main categories.

Care in your own home – sometimes called ‘domiciliary care’

Needing care does not necessarily mean moving to a care home. Care in your own home can often solve many of the day-to-day challenges and could range from relatively straightforward things such as having meals delivered and help with the cleaning and gardening, to regular support with washing or medical matters, or even full-time live-in care.

It could also mean having adaptations made to your home, such as installing a stair lift or a walk-in shower with a seat, which would allow you to stay in your own place for as long as possible (support may be available from your local authority for minor adaptions).

Residential care or nursing care

This kind of care can vary enormously. At one end of the scale are residential homes that offer personal care such as help with washing, dressing and taking medication. They also usually organise social activities such as coffee mornings, visiting entertainment and outings (subject to COVID-19 restrictions, of course).

At the other end, Nursing Care homes offer all of the above, combined with more specialised nursing or dementia care from qualified nursing professionals. Many homes offer both kinds of support.

How much does care cost?

As a general guide, you could expect to pay in the order of £10,000 to £15,000 a year for basic care at home1 – this might cover, for example, someone coming in for two hours every day. But, of course, if more care is required, those fees can go up by a lot.

For a residential care home, the national average for a basic level of care is around £35,000 a year2, but this average varies from region to region throughout the UK. If more specialised nursing or dementia care is required on top of that, you could expect to add at least another £12,000 or so per year on top, maybe even more3.

Paying for care

When your council conducts a care needs assessment, if they decide that some form of care is required, they will offer you a means test to work out if you’re entitled to financial support.

However, how much a local authority will pay for a care home or home support is very limited: in England and Northern Ireland, if the person needing care has savings or investments of more than £23,250, you are likely to have to meet the entire cost themselves.

The cost of care can vary a lot, depending on a wide range of factors such as geographical location, the level of support required, and whether the care is in-home or residential.

State help available

With most people preferring to stay at home where possible, adult social care and NHS services may be able to assist with living independently through care and support.

If you have been assessed as needing care from a registered nurse, then a nursing home is likely to be more suitable for you. It provides support similar to that provided in a residential home, but with provision of care by registered nurses and a higher staff-to-resident ratio.

If you are assessed as needing nursing care, you should be eligible for NHS continuing healthcare or NHS-funded nursing care benefit, so it’s important to make sure you are assessed for the support.

Seeking advice about social care planning

The right care starts with the right advice. Four out of ten older people have unclaimed Pension Credit3, and many others Attendance Allowance and Carers Allowance. Getting the right assessments can lead to additional money to help pay for your choice of care and reduce wealth depletion.

Unfortunately, one in four people who fund their own care run out of money1. Most commonly, this is because they don’t consider all the options. For most people, paying for care means creating income from the capital and assets that are available, but seeking financial advice will ensure that you find the best route forward.

Planning social care


Finally, registering a power of attorney while you or a loved one is still able to choose a trusted person will save time and money; and can give peace of mind that the person’s wishes are known and will be followed – should there be a time when they are not able to make your own decisions unassisted. Making a Will can also provide peace of mind and save time and money for the executor(s). A financial adviser can help with these issues, and with others, such as estate planning.

1,2,3 Laing Buisson Care of older people, UK market report 2018/19

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Last modified: May 27, 2021

Written by 5:52 pm News & Views, Care and carers