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Paying for social care (older people)

Information from local councils about care and funding

This page covers:

• Good experiences of help from councils in arranging care, benefits and accessing local support groups
• Bad experiences such as being given very little or unhelpful information
• Special circumstances such as moving to or living in a different council

For many people, a logical starting point when they or a relative begins to struggle at home and need some help is their GP. But GPs are part of the NHS and social care is the responsibility of local councils, so the local council adult social care department is a better place to go for advice. Sarah said she had asked her GP about a social care assessment for her parents but the GP told her he didn’t know anything about the process and she needed to contact her local council. If someone starts searching for care because of a recommendation from a health professional like a doctor or nurse, or during a stay in hospital, then it’s worth asking that health professional for help on where to go to find out more. But a good rule of thumb is to start with the local council adult social care department. 

Many of the people we spoke to had asked their local council for advice. People told us about very good experiences but also some that were not so good. A common experience was that once the local council knew that the person was going to be paying for their care themselves, they backed off and did not give much help. People used words like alone, abandoned and invisible to describe how this made them feel.

 

Sinclair told us that the ‘shutter comes down’ as soon as self-funding is mentioned.

Sinclair told us that the ‘shutter comes down’ as soon as self-funding is mentioned.

Age at interview: 92
Sex: Male
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I think there should be an area of the local authorities which just looks at the people who, who are above this magic figure that’s been set and hopefully looking in some depth; I’m sure there’s a lot of people who have got pensions of £2800 a year, £28,000 a year and who are enormously worried, you know because they’re out in the cold, you know, yeah, yeah. Because there’s no halfway house, the local authorities are involved or they’re not, is one of the things that in fact, you know, it’s a, a shutter comes down “can you tell us” you know, “are you inside this, outside? You’re outside hum, well, yeah so I’ve put this back to the office, that’s been very interesting and it’s, we’ll put it on file.”

 

Jane said the conversation stopped after she was asked if her mum was self-funding.

Jane said the conversation stopped after she was asked if her mum was self-funding.

Age at interview: 60
Sex: Female
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At the time when you just asked for advice from the local authority, did they do any needs assessments or financial assessments with your mum?

No, because the fir, almost the first question they would, people would ask is, you know, is she self-funding and because there was never any, you know, never any doubt that she was I would say that and that would, I, you know, you got the sense that it’d immediately close down any line of enquiry.

Local councils often gave people lists of home care agencies or care homes and suggested they ring round or visit them to decide which one they wanted. Some people described this type of information as very helpful and they were happy to choose an agency or care home themselves. Others described it as unhelpful and found it hard to choose an agency or care home when they had no experience to go on.

 

Tracey told us it was hard to find a care home for her dad when she had no experience of care homes.

Tracey told us it was hard to find a care home for her dad when she had no experience of care homes.

Age at interview: 59
Sex: Female
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Because the social worker said, “Well you have to choose. We can give you a list but it’s your, and we can’t recommend, it’s your choice.” And that is a minefield to me because we’ve had no experience in any of that. So we were going into these places and just hoping that they could give him what he needed.

 

Lynne threatened to stop helping her parents unless the council gave her some advice.

Lynne threatened to stop helping her parents unless the council gave her some advice.

Age at interview: 65
Sex: Female
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So I had several meetings with Social Services about this, because I said, “Look, you’re the experts, I need help, you know, I’m just me,” I said, “and if you don’t help me I will walk away and then you will have to sort it out.” And I did come across a social worker who was very, very good and helped me; I think she realised what I was up against and she did help me. But I said to her, “I would like [name of county] Council to recommend or give me homes that can cope with challenging behaviour, because I don’t know who can cope and who can’t.” Anyway they recommended a couple of homes.

Some people told us that they had not gone to their local council for help but felt re-assured that the council was there to help them with information or a needs assessment if they needed it. A few people said they had not contacted their local council because they were coping alright and were not sure what the council could do to help.

The people we spoke to talked about the good experiences they had had with their local councils and the types of things the councils helped with. Some people told us about their councils arranging equipment such as wheelchairs, raised toilet seats and beds, downstairs showers and ramps; assessing people’s entitlements to benefits; and providing information about local support groups for carers. Simon described the help from his local council as ‘fabulous’. Even though he paid for the care, the council had arranged it, which made it cheaper than if he had arranged it himself. Other people told us how the council had helped in discussions with care providers.

 

The council helped Sue get an earlier morning home care visit for her mum.

The council helped Sue get an earlier morning home care visit for her mum.

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So, and then they kept telling me that they couldn’t offer an earlier time and that was the time, so we had to go to that time, but it was upsetting to mum on the mornings that I couldn’t go in and change her then that she was having to wait. At that point I then went back to [County] County Council and said, “I need a new provider because they can’t do this.” And they were brilliant, they were really, really good. They sent out searches to all the providers and asked them if they had slots; the earlier slots unfortunately are really they’re like gold dust so it is difficult. They then told, they then told [care provider], our care providers, they told them that they wanted them to look at this as a priority and the next slot to come up that mum, you know, should be given this but I think that was enough probably for the care provider to realise that they would lose the business. And I appreciate they’ve got lots of business but they get a good whack from mum you know and the hour as well that’s better for them than quarter of an hour here, half an hour and funnily enough the next week she was back at seven o’clock.

 

The local council advised Jacky to make sure the care home accepted council-funded residents.

The local council advised Jacky to make sure the care home accepted council-funded residents.

Age at interview: 65
Sex: Female
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So they said they had got some residents there that were funded by Social Services.

And had that not been the case or had you not known to ask that question there could have been a risk that you would have had to move again?

No, definitely, yes, no, definitely. No, that was, that was certainly a question that; did I actually ask it or...? No, when I asked advice from Social Services on finding an appropriate care home and they actually did volunteer that information, because they sent me to a link on their website, which has got all the care homes and you could see their the reviews, you know, the Care Commission reviews that they’d had on that and everything; and she actually did say that, “Yes, just make sure that when you’re contacting them you check that they do accept Social Services’ funding.” So they did, yeah, they did volunteer that information, yes, and it, it was very important to know that.

As well as these good experiences, people complained to us that council departments were quite disjointed. They told us that although social workers and other staff were often experts in their own areas, no one seemed to know the whole system. That meant that one member of staff was not able to answer all of someone’s questions and they were often having to go back to the office to check. People found that lots of social workers worked part-time so were not always available. Weekends were particularly difficult and this caused problems for family members who cared for their parents but lived some distance away and worked full time as they could only make arrangements at weekends.

 

Frances told us that in future they’d use the internet before asking the local council.

Frances told us that in future they’d use the internet before asking the local council.

Age at interview: 52
Sex: Female
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I would be probably [sighs] going on the internet really. I think, my first port of call wouldn’t be social services because they are so overwhelmed and in our experience they really don’t know what they offer and, do you know what I mean, there’s not a common knowledge within the social services department, they only know their tiny little bit they’re worked in.

A very important issue for a few people was what would happen if the person paying for care moved from one local council area to another. This was especially important if the person’s money running low and they would become eligible for local council-funded care. Some councils pay more than others towards care and if a person is already getting council funding for permanent residential care before they move, that same council keeps paying after they move. 

The big worry was moving from a council in a cheaper area of the country to a more expensive one. Jacky’s mum was in this situation and Jacky wanted to know if it was better for her mum to move closer to her before or after her mum’s money ran out. Jacky asked her own local council in the south of England and her mum’s in the north for advice but it took a long time to get a clear answer. Moving to a more expensive area could also mean that money from selling a property might run out quicker.

 

Jacky describes how difficult it was to get the facts about moving from one council to another.

Jacky describes how difficult it was to get the facts about moving from one council to another.

Age at interview: 65
Sex: Female
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But I would say the average care home in [name of South town] is £1,000 a week; and if, if the council were only paying £460 and if she’d remained the responsibility of [name of North town] Council it would just have been financially impossible to move her. So this was, I think, the important thing, because I could not find out clarity on that information until I spoke to Age UK advisers. Because the Social Services in both councils, both in [name of North county] and in here, different people were giving me different facts really; all I wanted were facts about how the system worked, and I just; luckily, because if it had been, in a way it’s a good thing they did give me different interpretations, because if they’d told me first of all and I’d taken that as gospel, but by this stage it’s like I didn’t believe anything anybody told me until I got it [laughs] you know, reinforced at least three times but if I’d accepted that I would have, that would have been it, I wouldn’t have been able to move her. It was only that I sort of thought OK, this is conflict here, I’ve got to find out which is the right answer that we were able to do it.

So you simply would not have been able to move her and she’d have to have stayed in [name of North town]?

Well no, because if she’d remained under [name of North town] Council and where would we, as a family, have found £300 a week?

People had ups and downs in their experiences of asking local councils for advice. Some people told us they would have liked more help and advice and sometimes felt that being overworked was used as an excuse by social workers and other staff not to help out more. However, many people understood how busy social workers and their local adult social care departments were and gave positive stories of social workers being unexpectedly good.

 

Sue describes a young social worker as a Godsend.

Sue describes a young social worker as a Godsend.

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The, prior to her going into hospital and us trying to get her care prior to that the absolute Godsend was the young social worker, he was a young lad and I thought, when I say again books and covers [laughs] I just thought oh my God, you know, she’s just going to run you out of the house, mate, you haven’t got a chance but he absolutely charmed her and was a real dream. He came with the carer as well the first time round, introduced them and he talked to the care providers and said, “You know, for the first couple of weeks don’t do anything, just go in and, you know, chat, have a cup of tea, get her used to that.” And he was, he was really good, he was really good. If it hadn’t been for him I, it would have been a lot harder for her to accept the care, but I was able to say, “Ooh, you know, you, you told, you told,” I can’t even remember his name now and I should do because he was, he was an absolute gem, “you told so-and-so that, that you’d do this didn’t you? Now have I got to ring him and tell him that you’re not going to?” “No.” [Laughter]. So yeah, so that, that’s how that happened.

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