When our clients move from their own homes into residential care homes or nursing homes, the question of funding this care comes into consideration. Some of our clients have enough capital, in savings and assets such as property, to fund the cost of their care institutions. However, should our clients not be able to pay their care fees, the local authorities may assist.

The Charging for Residential Accommodation Guide s (6) sets out the rules regarding social services contribution. As such, a person whose capital is over £23,250 will not be eligible for financial assistance, and they will have to fund their own care. If the person’s capital falls between £14,250 and £23,250 then they will have to contribute to the cost of their care on a tariff based system. And finally, should the person’s capital fall below the £14,250 threshold, the local authority will fund the care in its entirety, subject to any contribution from income.

Normally, capital would include property. Unsurprisingly, considering the average value of a house in the United Kingdom is now worth around £225,956, many find themselves paying for care from the sale proceeds of their home. However, there are instances in which a person’s property can be disregarded from the financial assessment process.

Property disregard happens for several reasons. The authorities recognise that many properties are held by the people going into care are not inhabited by them alone and a sale or renting of such property could cause distress to family members. The situations in which the value of properties held in a person’s name are disregarded are detailed in the CRAG and the subsequent Care & Support Statutory Guidance.

The main exception is set out in CRAG s7. This section reads that if the property has been occupied, in part or in whole, by relatives – a spouse, or a lone parent who is an estranged or a divorced partner, a relative over 60, or a child under 18, or a disabled relative (who could be under 60) – before the person’s move to a care home, the property should be disregarded.

Another exception is that the value of the home must be disregarded for the first 12 weeks of any admission to permanent care (CRAG s 7 (6)). Similarly, if the person’s stay in a care home is temporary, which means up to a year, and they intend to return to the property, the home will also be disregarded.

Controversy has arisen regarding people who lived with their parents before their move into care, but have subsequently left home for work or other reasons and have rented out, but intended to return to the home permanently. The question is whether the relative ‘occupies’ the property or is only emotionally attached to it. Should the property be disregarded in this instance?

The courts have decided that property may be regarded in this instance too. While each case depends on the circumstances, a case in 2014 found that a relative who had lived at the property before the protected person was moved into care, and who showed a clear intention to returning by keeping close ties to “home” (such as being registered to vote there, or registered with a local doctor), will be regarded as occupying the property, and hence this property will be disregarded from a financial assessment.

However, there are cases in which a relative moves in close to, or after the time when the protected person was moved into care in an attempt to prevent the property from being sold, after inclusion in a local authority financial assessment. In this event, the property will still be taken into consideration.

The Charging for Residential Accommodation Guidance and the Care & Support Statutory Guidance provides helpful information regarding social services financial assessments.