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19 Community care

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1. Introduction

2. Who decides what sort of care I need?

3. Who pays if I get care in my home?

4. How much will I have to pay?

When working out how much to charge you, councils should take into account:

  • how much the service costs; and
  • how much you could reasonably be expected to pay. To work this out, they are allowed to ask you how much income you get and what savings you have.

They should also take into account government guidelines on charging. These aim to ensure that councils are consistent and fair and do not leave people struggling to pay. If you feel you cannot pay, you can ask social services to review the charge. You should always do this if you think they haven't taken into account any extra things you have to pay for because of a disability or other problem.

Your services cannot be taken away if you don't pay, but the council can try to get you to pay what you owe.

'Direct payments'

Instead of giving you services, councils must offer you the option of getting direct payments - money to pay for your own care (if you meet certain conditions). If you are a carer, you may also be able to get direct payments.

You can use direct payments to pay for almost any care you need. For example, if you can't do your shopping alone, you could use a direct payment to help you do it yourself - for example by paying for a taxi or a home delivery - or to pay someone to do it for you. Or you might pay for some care while your carer has a break. You can't normally use direct payments to pay for routine things done for you by your husband, wife or partner or a close relative who lives with you. And you can't use direct payments to pay for a permanent place in a care home or to buy care from the council.

Direct payments give you more choice about who cares for you and how. But if you use direct payments, it may mean you have to become an employer. This invloves having to sort out contracts and deduct tax and national insurance from the money you pay people. Your council should be able to give you practical advice  about dealing with these things. The Department of Health also produces a guide to direct payments (see 'Further help').

You can decide at any time that you don't want to get direct payments any more, and would rather have services arranged for you.

The council can stop direct payments if it thinks that:

  • your needs are no longer being met;
  • you can't manage your payments; or
  • you aren't spending the money properly.

However, it should warn you and give you the chance to discuss the matter before this happens.

What if I am unhappy with an assessment?

You can use your council's complaints system if you are unhappy with your assessment. For example, if:

  • the council refuses to assess you;
  • it leaves you waiting a long time to be assessed; or
  • you are not happy with how the assessment was done.

You can also complain about the result of your assessment. For example, if you:

  • think you are not getting the services you need;
  • think you are being asked to pay too much for the services you use; or
  • have problems with the services themselves.

If a care trust did your assessment, you could complain to the trust in the first place, but the council is ultimately responsible for providing the services. If you are unhappy with the way a care trust or council deals with your complaint, you can take your complaint further. See 'What can I do if i have difficulty getting the care I need?' , for more about how to complain.

5. What if I am coming out of hospital?

6. What happens if I need to move into a care home?

7. What if I need nursing care?

8. Will I have to sell my home?

9. What benefits may I claim?

10. What choice of home do I have?

11. What if I want to move to a care home that costs more than the council will pay?

12. What if my move into a home is temporary?

13. What rights do I have when I am in a care home?

14. What if I have difficulty getting the care I need?

15. Further Help

16. About this leaflet

This leaflet is published by the Legal Services Commission (LSC).  It was written in association with Sue Bloomfield, a freelance consumer affairs writer.

The leaflets are regularly updated but the law may have changed since they were printed so the information in them may be incorrect or out of date.

Leaflet Version: May 2019

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