Many of us are concerned about what will happen to us if we are no longer able to look after ourselves and need care at home or elsewhere. Despite different approaches to social care in Scotland and England, rising costs, funding challenges, and services under strain mean it remains a politically contentious issue both north and south of the border.

Residential care in Scotland

Those living in a care home and assessed as requiring personal care in Scotland, will receive a weekly payment of £233.10 from the local authority irrespective of their financial position. An additional non means tested payment of £104.90 per week is made to those receiving nursing care. Contributions towards accommodation costs are funded based on a financial assessment of your income and assets. The outcome of that financial assessment will determine whether you are self-funded or state-funded. The capital limits in Scotland for 2023/24 are:

  • Lower limit = £20,250
  • Upper limit = £32,750

This means that if your capital is above the upper limit, you will be expected to fund your own care home fees, subject only to free personal and nursing care. On the other hand, if your capital is below the lower limit, you'll get help from the government towards the cost of your care home. The amount of funding you're paid will be determined by your needs and the cost of your care home up to a fixed maximum. If you're eligible for a fully funded place and the costs of your care home exceeds the maximum threshold paid by the local authority, you can "top up" your fees with your own money. If you are state-funded the local authority can decide whether a care home meets your needs.

Care at home in Scotland

Since 2002, free personal care at home has been available for adults aged 65 or over for those that need it irrespective of their financial position. Care is either provided by the local authority directly or by an agency used by them. If you want to arrange your own care, you can choose to receive "self-directed support". This means you receive a direct payment from the local authority and you arrange your own care package. If your package costs more than the direct payments you receive from the council, you can top up with your own money.

The English position

Residential care

Like in Scotland, England also uses a financial means test to determine whether someone is self-funded, or state funded. However, the thresholds are different. In England, the capital thresholds are much lower:

  • Lower limit = £14,250
  • Upper limit = £23,250

If the value of your assets exceeds the upper limit then you will be expected to fund you own care. However, from October 2023 there will be a lifetime cap of £86,000 the amount you pay towards personal care. Crucially, this does not cover food and accommodation costs in relation to which there is no such limit.

If the value of your assets is below the lower limit, then you won't have to use those assets to pay for your care. However, you will be expected to contribute most of your income towards the cost of your care home.

There is no free personal care in England. Those who are self-funded, over 65 and in need of daily care and support may be eligible for Attendance Allowance. Following the introduction of free personal care, Attendance Allowance is no longer available to those in Scottish care homes. England pays towards the cost of your nursing care in care homes. This is funded through the NHS rather than the local authority. Funded nursing care is paid weekly at either the standard rate of £219.71 or the higher rate of £302.25 depending on your needs.

Care at home

Funding for care at home is based on a needs assessment and a means test. The capital limits are the same as those for residential care. You may be eligible for certain benefits like Attendance Allowance (if you're over state pension age) and Personal Independence Payment (if you're below state pension age).

Proposals for a National Care Service in Scotland

Lastly, it is worth discussing the recent proposals for a national care service in Scotland. In 2022, the National Care Service (Scotland) Bill (the "Bill") was introduced to the Scottish Parliament in attempt to address some of the challenges faced by the social care sector. The proposal is to transfer social care responsibility from local authorities to a new national service with the aim of ensuring consistency in the quality of care delivered across the country. There will be no change to the provision of free personal and nursing care, nor the applicability of the means test for other services discussed previously.

Wherever you are based in the UK and whether you need residential care, or care in your own home, costs are likely to be significant. Now more than ever, it’s crucial to take advice about how best to plan for your future, protect your estate and your loved ones. If you are concerned about the cost of care for you or a member of your family, please get in touch with one of experts.