Andrew Carrigan, trusts and estates solicitor with Ashfords, looks at local authority care assessments.

MOST people wait a long time before asking for help – and often when they finally do it’s because they’re at breaking point.

If you – or your family – are finding it hard to manage it’s important to understand the support you’re entitled to.

Who you should go to for assistance will depend on the nature and severity of your needs but here I focus on the local authority.

You should start with a call to your local Adult Social Care Team to request a care assessment.

The assessment is free and will take the form of a discussion between you, your existing carers, family and usually a social worker. It will consider how you want to lead your life and set out a care plan recording support that would help you meet that objective.

You should be informed of the needs you have which have been identified as eligible. Local authorities only fund support to meet eligible needs. Most authorities have reduced the support they provide and Somerset now only regards substantial or critical needs to be eligible.

If you have eligible needs it doesn’t necessarily mean your care will be paid for. That is decided by a means test. I’ll cover that in a later feature but the basic rule is if you have more than £23,250 in savings you must meet your own care costs.

That’s the process – nice and simple.

However that process can be a bit more complex in practice. So here are my top tips….

1 The question of money should not be raised until after your assessment. I have clients who were told that because they have savings more than £23,250 a care assessment will not be performed. That is wrong.

Whether you are a pauper or a prince you are entitled to benefit from the experience and advice the Adult Social Care Team can give you to understand your needs and how they might be met.

You can quite justifiably refuse to talk to the local authority about your income and savings until they have identified your eligible needs. Indeed, I would recommend you take that approach.

2 Local authorities are obliged to follow guidance issued by the Department of Health in deciding which needs are eligible. Somerset has come up with its own definitions of what constitutes critical and substantial needs.

Somerset’s definitions seem more limited than those in the Guidance. For example, Somerset might not consider a lone parent being unable to care for their child as a critical need but any sensible reading of the Guidance means they should.

You should perform your own evaluation of your needs. If you think your needs fall within the Department of Health’s Guidance for critical or substantial but they have been rated as ineligible you should consider challenging the decision.

You can find those definitions on our website.

3 The new Care Act sets a maximum amount you will have to pay for care. Initially this will be £70,000-£75,000. But only payments towards care for eligible needs count, not the amount you actually spend on care.

I’ll return to the Care Cap in a later feature but if you pay for your own care and you haven’t had an assessment to determine your eligible needs, there’s a risk that the money you spend will not count towards the cap.

If you encounter problems accessing an assessment or care make sure you know your rights and don’t just take what you are told at face value – and, of course, if you need assistance feel free to get in touch.

A longer version of this article is available by clicking here

Are you paying someone to store your Will?

If you are paying for your own care it’s possible money might be tight. One area where you can cut your outgoings is if you are paying someone to store your Will.

Ashfords will store your Will in our strong room for free. We’ll also give you a copy that you can take away and leave with your important papers.

Contact Ashfords if you’d like to use that service.