Frequently Asked Questions

Deferred Payments
Care Account and the Care Cap
Assessment
Personal Budget
Carers
Advocacy

Why is the Care Act being introduced?

Until now its been almost impossible for people who need care, carers, and even those who manage the care system, to understand how the previous law affecting them worked. Over nearly 70 years it has been added to again and again and is out of date and confusing. The Care Act has created a single, modern law that makes it clear what kind of care people should expect.

What is the Care Act?

The Care Act represents the most significant reform of care and support in more than 60 years, putting people and their carers in control of their care and support. For the first time, the Act will put a limit on the amount anyone will have to pay towards the costs of their care.

What is the purpose of the Care Act?

Independence and wellbeing: The aim of the Care Act is to give you greater choice and control in the what care and support you receive so that you can live your life the way you want to
Prevention: Thinking about things that will help to stop problems before they start, or to stop them getting worse as early as possible.
Integration: The Act encourages the Council to work with other organisations, including health, the voluntary and community sector and private companies, to provide the support that you need
Choice and control: Your care and support plan will help you to do the things that are important to you, and it will be led by you
Information and advice: Having good quality information to help you choose the right care and support for you as well as signposting you to organisations who can provide independent financial advice
Carers entitlements and rights: Carers will be entitled to their own assessments to see if they are eligible for support.  The Act acknowledges the hard work that carers do and that they have needs too as well as the people they care for
Lifetime cap: There will be a limit to the amount you will have to pay for care in your lifetime (this will not come into force until April 2016).  No one should pay more than £72,000 for care costs but this does not include food and heating costs even when someone is in residential care.
A national eligibility criteria and changes to assessment for care: There will be the same rules about who can get care and support all over the country
Advocacy: If you find it very difficult to be involved at any stage of your assessment or care planning, and there is no-one else to speak for you, then the council must find you an independent advocate who will help you to say what you want to say and represent your best interests to get the services you need
Keeping adults safe: This is the first time we have had a law telling councils what to do to help keep adults safe from abuse or neglect. It introduces a statutory framework for the councils existing Safeguarding Adults Board.

When are these changes going to happen?

Some changes will be introduced from April 2015, but some don't come into force until 2016

(2015) The first requirements related to information and advice (including advice on paying for care), information about who can provide the care you are looking for, assessments (including carers’ assessments), thresholds for eligibility, personal budgets and care and support plans, safeguarding, universal deferred payment agreements. (2016) additional requirements will include; extended means test, care accounts, capped charging system.

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What is a Deferred Payment Agreement?

People who enter permanent residential care and wish to delay the sale of their home can do so under the Deferred Payment agreement.   
Individuals will not be forced to sell their home in their lifetime.  A deferred payment can last until death, however many people choose to use a deferred payment agreement as a 'bridging loan' to give them time and flexibility to sell their home when they choose to do so.  This is entirely up to the individual to decide.  People who enter permanent residential care and wish to delay the sale of their home can do so under a deferred payment agreement.

At the end of the deferred payment agreement the full amount of care costs must be repaid to the Council.

Are Deferred Payment Agreements (DPAs) new to the world of social care? 

No, local authorities have been offering DPAs for some time (since 2001), however what is new is the requirement to offer these to all individuals who meet the eligibility criteria. What this means is expanding and building on existing systems.

The Act also changes how DPAs will work, for example, local authorities will be able to charge interest on the fees deferred and pass on administration charges. The regulations will set out a maximum interest rate and DH is consulting on an indicative range of 3.5-5 percent.

When must the money be repaid?

The money must be repaid by the earliest of these dates:

  • when your property has been sold;
  • when you terminate the agreement;
  • within 56 days of your death.

If the debt if not repaid by these dates, interest is charged at the County Court rate. We expect the debt to be repaid within 12 months of the end of the agreed period.

How do I apply for a Deferred Payment?

If you are planning to live in a residential home following an Adult Social Care assessment and are thinking about deferred payments you should discuss it with a Financial Assessment Officer when they carry out your financial assessment. If you decide to go ahead, a contract letter and terms of the agreement will then be sent to you. This shows the assessed payments to be made under the scheme and the terms of the agreement.

What is the Care Cap?

The cap on care costs will reassure many people by providing protection from catastrophic care costs if they have the most serious needs. It is intended that the cap will be £72,000 when it is introduced in April 2016.
The cap means that people will be responsible for their care costs as assessed by the local authority, up to the £72,000 cap if they can afford it. They will also be responsible for:

  • any ‘extra’ care costs for the same service (for example, if they choose a more expensive care option);
  • any support that is not covered in the care and support package, such as cleaners and gardeners employed by the individual;
  • a contribution to general living costs if they are in a care home and if they can afford it. “General living costs” reflect the costs that people would have to meet if they were living in their own home – such as for food, energy bills.  See question on Hotel Costs below for further information.

Do all Care Costs count towards the cap?

Not all of the costs that a person might pay for their care will count towards the cap. Only the cost of care assessed by a local authority as matching a person’s needs will count. For example, if someone wanted to spend extra money on a more expensive care home, that difference would not be included.

Is the level of the cap set at the same for everyone?

No, the level at which the cap is set varies with age. If you are a young person transitioning from Children and Families Services into Adult Social care your cap is set at £0.00. The £72,000 cap only applies to older adults aged 65 years and over, with lower caps yet to be set for younger adults.

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What is a care account?

Everyone with eligible needs will have a care account that will show the total cost of meeting their needs over time. The account will show how someone is progressing towards the cap. Once a person reaches the cap, the local authority will have to pay any further costs to carry on meeting the persons eligible needs. The local authority will assess what these costs are. If individuals choose to receive care that is more expensive then they will be able to pay the difference.

How many people will benefit from the care cap?

  • From April 2016, the Care Act will introduce a cap on care costs and will provide new financial protection for those with modest wealth.
  • It is intended that this cap will be £72,000 from April 2016 for people of state pension age and over. The cap amount will be adjusted annually. It is also intended that the cap will be lower for people of working age. For people who have eligible care needs when they turn 18 the cap will be zero.
  • We know that 16 percent of older people with care needs will have care costs of more than £72,000. No-one knows what their future care costs may be, so these changes will give everyone peace of mind. Further information is available in the care cap factsheet.

What are hotel costs?

Hotel, or daily living costs, are the costs an individual would have to pay where they lived. It covers things such as rent, food and utilities. We have recently consulted on the level at which these should be set and are considering the responses. DH currently anticipates this being around £12,000 per year where people can afford to do so. This is in line with the recommendation from the independent Dilnot Commission.  These costs will not count towards the care cap.

The detail of how the cap operates will be set out in the regulations. These will be consulted on towards the end of the year.

I've been paying for my Care for 2 years, can I have a refund for the money I've already spent?

No, money spent on care will only be included towards your care cap from the date of the assessment.  Money spent prior to your assessment will not count towards your care cap.

I don't have access to a computer so how can I check my care account?

Everyone who has a care account will receive a regular statement of account which will make clear how much they have spent on their care and how close they are to the cap.

If I move to a different area what happens to the progress I have made to the cap and my care account?

Nothing. Both will follow you to your new home area. This means that you lose none of the contributions you have made towards the cap and your care account will show your full record of contributions.

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What is a needs assessment?

A needs assessment is how we decide whether a person needs care and support to help them live their day-to-day life.

What is a carer's assessment?

A carer’s assessment focuses on people who provide or intend to provide care for another adult, not as part of paid or voluntary work. Where an individual provides, or intends to provide care for other adult, local authorities must consider whether to carry out a carer’s assessment if it appears that the carer may have any level of need for support.  They will also have to take into account the needs of the carer and the people they look after.

What is a Personal Budget?

A personal budget is the amount of money available to meet an individual’s eligible needs and allows that person to make informed decisions about how his, or her needs will be met. Personal budgets are not new but the Care Act, for the first time, makes it obligatory for everyone who receives adult social care to also receive a personal budget.

What is an independent Personal Budget?

The Care Act introduces “independent personal budgets”. These are entirely new and allow people, following assessment, with eligible needs that the council is not under a duty to meet (either because they do not qualify for financial assistance or do not want the council to meet their needs) to request an independent personal budget, setting out what the council would spend on meeting their eligible needs. This then enables them to qualify for State funding when their accrued costs reach the cap.
As with actual personal budgets, the council must keep independent personal budgets under review and reassess people on these budgets if they feel their circumstances have changed and revise them accordingly. Independent personal budgets are complemented by “care accounts” (see below) which record of measure people progress towards the cap.

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What do the changes mean for carers?

For the first time, carers will be recognised in the law in the same way as those they care for. This will affect how carers are assessed and their eligibility and will also affect how carers interact with Local Authorities as a result.

When can I request a carers assessment?

You can ask for a carers assessment whether or not the person you care for receives financial support from the council. The Care Act says that to be considered for an assessment you need to have support needs of your own and caring responsibilities now or in the future.

What help is available for carers?

A Carer’s Assessment might lead to practical help, a break from caring responsibilities, or you might be entitled to a personal budget, which you could spend on things that will help you or support your wellbeing (such as a laptop computer or a gym membership).

What if I live in a different area to the person I care for?

If you live in a different area to the person you care for, it will be the local council for the person you care for that is responsible for assessing and supporting your needs.

What is advocacy?

Advocacy is where an individual, called an advocate, is used to express your views and represent your interests.
Advocacy enables people with physical or learning disabilities, older people and those with mental health needs to make informed decisions about their own health and social care needs.  You might want to use family members or a friend to act on your behalf as your advocate, or the Council can supply a list of qualified advocates if required.

What is the Independent Mental Capacity Advocate (IMCA) service?

The Independent Mental Capacity Advocate (IMCA) is an independent safeguard for people who have difficulty in making informed decisions  and who have no one else to act on behalf of their welfare.

The council must consult an IMCA when making decisions for a person who has difficulty in making informed decisions.

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