Are local councils flouting the rules around ‘top up’ fees for care homes?

Year Published: 2016

An investigation carried out by the charity Independent Age has revealed that councils are not following the rules surrounding ‘top up’ fees for care homes.

Justine Clowes, Partner and head of personal law at SAS Daniels.

Justine Clowes, Partner

The current rules state that if a person has capital of more than £23,250, then they will need to pay for their own care. However, people with assets of less than that may qualify for financial support from the council. Families then have the option of using their own cash to top this up, which might then allow the person in care to go to a nicer home or have a bigger room.

The law is clear that ‘top ups’ by the family are voluntary and that the council should always offer at least one care home placement that doesn’t involve the need to pay a ‘top up’.

In our own experience, many of our clients are routinely finding that the ‘top up’ is being described to them as something which they must do, rather than something that is optional. Independent Age’s investigation has revealed that 35% of councils did not have a written agreement in place for families entering ‘top up’ fee arrangements and that 37% of councils did not carry out annual reviews of those agreements. This does not meet the Government’s guidance on ‘top up’ fees for care homes.

In addition, a worrying 41% of councils said that at least some of the ‘top up’ arrangements that they were aware of in their area had been arranged without any local authority involvement, which is contrary to the rules.

The Local Government Ombudsman reported on this issue in September 2015 and said that families may be due refunds over ‘top up’ fees, and that councils were not giving families enough information or choice around care homes.

This investigation highlights that families need to be aware of care funding issues, particularly around “top up” fees and to make sure that they have the right information to hand before making any decisions, which could have huge financial implications.

If you or your family have concerns over the care fee funding in general, or in particular ‘top up’ fees, please contact Justine Clowes in our Elderly, Care & Mental Capacity team on 01625 442148.

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