Care homes need good advisers – it’s time to connect

Carer-caring-long-term care-elderly-2013Building ties with social care professionals can take time but is important for the care sector and worthwhile for advice firms

The word ‘crisis’ seems to follow most references to social care funding. Even Boris Johnson recently used the term in his first speech as prime minister, with his pledge to “fix the crisis in social care once and for all.”

While we await the specific details of the government’s plan, many families are trying to make their way through the emotional and complex process of finding and paying for a care home. Local authority funding for care is means-tested and the amount paid varies – leaving families needing advice around the rules and idiosyncrasies. So how can financial advisers get into this growing market and how can they build relationships with care home professionals?

Professional development

Financial Care Solutions care fees planning specialist Catriona Lumiste points out care providers do not generally get involved in the financial discussions with clients so it is important for them to refer to specialist advisers.

“Building relationships with care providers can be slow but very rewarding,” she says. “I think to be an effective later life adviser it is important to have a good working knowledge and understanding of later life issues particularly as many clients can become more vulnerable with complex care and support needs in later life.”

Lumiste believes her Society of Later Life Advisers accreditation and membership of the Care Adviser Network has helped in building relationships with care providers.

“I think if financial advisers are interested in getting into this area of work they should invest in their professional development and consider the Solla accreditation,” she says. “Solla is a trusted brand and I firmly believe Solla accreditation is the gold standard for advisers. Many care providers recognise this and feel confident when dealing with Solla-accredited advisers. “

The Care Adviser Network is another great source of knowledge and support for Lumiste’s work in care fees planning. She says it also helps provide access to other members who are involved at various stages of a client’s care journey.

Managing potential difficulties

Later Life Asset Management director Bill Calderbank warns the relationship between care providers and professionals can potentially be tricky.

“In my experience, many are a little reluctant to make positive referrals to financial advisers because they feel it is outside their remit of physical care. Their clients may assume they are remunerated for such referrals and they might fear the reputational damage to them if advice proves unsuitable,” he says.

Calderbank adds that care home residents and their families have a real need for advice, not just in terms of care fee funding, but also the legal and taxation implications that often arise.

“Invariably, care providers are ideally placed to provide information, to signpost or to make specific referrals. Advisers who hold Solla accreditation are ideally able to provide care professionals with the reassurance they have the necessary knowledge and qualifications,” he says.

However, Calderbank believes Solla membership is not, in itself, enough.

“While the accreditation process deals with the issues of knowledge it does not consider an adviser’s regulatory status or business practice,” he says.

Calderbank believes advisers should demonstrate they offer independent advice. “This is an area where a care professional might understandably be confused by the ways in which some restricted advisers present themselves without making absolutely clear they are not independent,” he says.

Another factor Calderbank believes will overcome the reservations care providers might have and to will help build strong relationships is that the adviser does not operate on a contingent charging basis. He says this payment model can create a bias towards a sale when the real need is for advice.

“Our preference is for an agreed advice fee which reflects the scope of the work to be done and which enables genuinely independent advice and guidance to be provided,” he says.

What care homes want

Given the decision to go into a care home is emotionally charged, care homes expect the advisers they work with to show compassion and agree Solla accreditation gives advisers credibility.

“It’s a very difficult decision for families to put a loved one into care home. We need advisers to bring compassion and understand the emotional nature of this decision,” says Sam Cheekoory, chief operating officer at Gold Care Homes.

He says that as well as helping families work out their best options for funding care, care homes need expertise in areas such as wills and powers of attorney that give someone else the ability to make decisions on the care home resident’s behalf.

“All too often, someone is put into a care home due to a decline in heath where they can’t look after themselves. Where admission is immediate, power of attorney and an up-to-date will is not high on the agenda,” he says.

“From a financial adviser’s viewpoint, there is a need for will writing and powers of attorney, particularly where there is more than one sibling who is asking questions. As care professionals we are unable to assist in these matters.”

Cheekory adds that to ensure Gold Care Homes offer residents unbiased and legally sound advice, it offers residents a list of local Solla advisers.

“We make it very clear that we are not paid for any introductions and the final decision must always rest with the family. These local advisers hold regular seminars within the home in order to raise the importance of the correct legal documentation,” he says.

“Every admission is subject to financial checks to determine fee contribution. At this point, the industry should insist that residents are informed of the benefits of having a will and power of attorney.”

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