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Cap on care costs will become Law

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The ‘Health and Care Bill’ will now become law, having been agreed by both Houses of Parliament.

Unlike the NHS, social care is not a free service, with local authorities always having been able to charge for such services. This means that service users are potentially exposed to very high and unpredictable care costs and face the prospect of losing the majority of their income and assets.

In an attempt to address this issue, the government announced in September 2021 that it intends to introduce a ‘cap on care costs’, which will apply to all adults in receipt of adult social care in England, no matter their age.

The centrepiece of the Bill is an £86,000 cap on any eligible person’s lifetime expenditure on their ‘personal care’.

Nicola Hawes, Associate with Wace Morgan Solicitors and accredited member of SFE, comments: “For people arranging their own care, this will be based on their Council’s assessment of the cost of meeting their needs and not what they actually spend. This means that people will probably spend significantly more than £86,000 before they are eligible for the ‘cap’.” She continues: “People whose needs are already met by their council will receive a personal budget, as is the case now, but only their ‘contributions’ to care (based on their available income, and not the full cost), will count towards the ‘cap’.”

Local Authorities are expected to carry out care cap assessments from April 2023. Nicola Hawes points out that this “will mean hundreds of thousands more assessments and reviews needing to be carried out by Councils annually to implement the new system, expected to be formally introduced in October 2023. This will clearly add a significant amount of pressure on what is already a strained social care system.”

The reforms also include a more generous means-test for adult social care, raising the upper capital threshold from £23,250 to £100,000. At the same time, the lower capital threshold – below which people receive fully funded care – will rise from £14,250 to £20,000, though this essentially just compensates for the threshold freeze since 2010.