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Home economics

Our elderly mother Emily is in need of long-term care in a private

residential home. The fees quoted are 350 a week.

Emily has 10,000 in a building society account and a house worth 250,000.

In addition, she receives an income of 9,500 a year made up of a widow&#39s

pension and the state pension.

Please advise us on who is responsible for assessing Emily&#39s long-term

care needs. What benefits might she be entitled to? How might her

investments affect her entitlement to benefits?

The NHS and Community Care Act 1990 gave responsibility to local

authority social services departments for assessing the needs of

individuals for long-term care. They involve other agencies as they see fit

and then make suitable provisions, subject to budget constraints.

What benefits may Emily be entitled to?

Income support can often be paid to people living in residential care or

nursing homes. The amount payable is the level of fees or a set maximum

amount, whichever is the lower, and a personal expenses allowance.

Additional allowances may be payable to cover the cost of meals.

Each year, the Government publishes its fee scale for the maximum weekly

amounts that it will pay until the following April. The maximum help with

fees will depend on the type of care provided.

In most cases, the maximum weekly amount payable until April 5, 2000 was

218 (or 252 for very dependent elderly patients) for independent

residential care homes and 326 for nursing homes. These amounts could be

increased by 45 and 50 respectively for people living in independent

residential or nursing homes in Greater London.

In addition, all retired people in private care are likely to receive

attendance allowance. Attendance allowance is payable to people aged 65 or

over after they have been suffering from a severe disability for a period

of six months or more.

Two levels of benefit are possible:

A higher rate of 52.95 if care is needed on a 24- hour basis.

A lower rate of 35.40 if care is needed by night or day but not both.

Emily also receives a basic state pension and a widow&#39s pension which

total 9,500 a year.

How will Emily&#39s investments affect her entitlement to benefits?

Emily has 10,000 invested in a building society and her house, valued at

250,000.

To assess whether she could qualify for any income support on moving into

a residential home, she will be asked to provide the benefits agency with

detailed information about her income and capital.

All income received will be taken into account when assessing entitlement.

Attendance allowance may be ignored, depending on Emily&#39s individual

circumstances.

The information needed to assess the claim for income support includes

proof of part-time earnings and other income, including other benefits,

expenses and income from savings.

The amount of any savings, investments, property or land that Emily has is

also considered when assessing a claim for income support.

Capital between 10,000.01 and 16,000 inclusive will be taken into account

by assuming a weekly income of 1 for any part of 250 of capital over

10,000.

Once Emily&#39s capital reduces to below 16,000, the local authority may

intervene with financial support. However, they may not necessarily allow

Emily to remain in the same home as they may consider it to be too

expensive.

This may prove to be an issue because the maximum level of income support

would be restricted to 218 a week. This falls short of the cost of Emily&#39s

home at 350 a week.

As an alternative, the local authority might offer the option for Emily to

move to a local authority residential or nursing home.

The fixed weekly residential allowance for local authority residential

accommodation was 66.75 to April 2000.

Local authority residential care homes are required to charge people what

they can afford for care. This means that all state benefits to which Emily

would be entitled, such as pension and income support, would go back to the

home, excluding the nominal amount of 14.75 a week for her personal

expenses allowance.

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