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Get a helping handout

No one wants to contemplate having to move into a care home. Apart from the fact that it is not a step anyone takes unless ill health makes it necessary, it means moving out of your own home – of however many years standing.

Worst of all, under the system we have here in the UK, your clients also have to pay for the privilege. It is free if you are in hospital but you pay if you are in a nursing home. However, your clients are not on their own when it comes to care home fees.

With average nursing home costs of over £20,000 a year in the UK according to Laing and Buisson 2001 – and much more than that in London and the South-east – that is a lot of money to find.

But when you are discussing care fees with your clients and how they can protect their savings and investments do not ignore the help they will get from the Government towards care home costs if it does come to that. Look at what is available.

Attendance allowance

This is a disability-triggered benefit which is neither taxable nor means-tested. Nor are there any restrictions on where a person has to be to qualify for it (at home or in a home are both allowed) or on how it is spent. So it has added value on all these counts.

It is triggered by disability – basically the need for assistance from another person. If someone cannot get up without help or cannot get to the toilet in the night without help they could well qualify for attendance allowance.

If help is needed during the day or night, the benefit is £37 a week. If help is needed both day and night – say getting out of bed in the morning and because a client has to be turned in bed but cannot do either without assistance – then the amount is £55.30 a week.

Grossing these figures up to get their value to a taxpayer we get a much higher effective contribution from the Government (table 1).

Free nursing care

From October 1, 2001, the NHS is making a further contribution to nursing home costs without the individual losing attendance allowance.

This is an NHS contribution which is intended to reflect the cost of “nursing care” in a nursing home. The change is to end the anomaly of nursing homes being the only place where a person pays for nursing care.

The value of this extra help is £70 a week for a person with “average nursing care needs”. The NHS will pay this direct to the nursing home, subject to assessment and agreement on eligibility, so the individual can expect to see the weekly bill reduce by the same amount.

Once again, think of the value of this payment to a taxpayer (table 2).

While these amounts are not going to pay for all of a client&#39s nursing home costs, they are certainly amounts worth having. They can make finding the total cost a lot less daunting than clients might anticipate.

When pension and investment income are taken into account (table 3), the gap between income and expenditure narrows still further – making long-term care insurance to fill the gap a much more manageable proposition for your clients.

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