When your local authority provides care and support, it might charge you for this if it decides that you have the money to contribute towards the cost of your services.
How the local authority decides how much you could pay
Your local authority must do a financial assessment which will say how much you have to pay to the local authority towards the cost of your care and support. The assessment will look at two things: your income and your living costs.
Assessment of your income
First the council will look at any income you have, such as disability benefits. Many things cannot be included as income, such as:
- the mobility component of Disability Living Allowance or Personal Independence Payment
- money paid for night-time care
- money you earn from working (this is so they don’t prevent disabled people from working)
- your family members’ incomes – only yours can be assessed.
The local authority will also look at any assets you have, such as savings or if you own any property:
- If you have savings of over £14,250, the local authority might take that into account when calculating your income. They will count you as having £1 of weekly income for every £250 over £14,250 that you have.
- If you have savings of £23,250 or more you may have to pay the full costs of services.
- If you own property, it should only be taken into account if you do not live there.
- They cannot ask your family to meet the costs of charges, even if you live with your family.
Assessment of your living costs
When the local authority has worked out what your income is, they must then assess what your living costs are, such as rent and bills.
If you live at home with your family and contribute towards housing costs, make the local authority aware of what you pay. Some local authorities may take this into account, as they would for rent or mortgage costs if you lived on your own.
When looking at outgoings the council must consider all “disability related expenditure”. Disability related expenditure is any reasonable item or adjustment needed for a disabled person to live independently.
Examples of disability related expenditure:
- Costs of any privately arranged care services, including respite care.
- Costs of any special items caused by a disability – for example:
- above average gas/electricity/water costs, for example because of the need to wash bedding more often or the need to keep the house at a warmer temperature
- special clothing or footwear, for example where this needs to be specially made, or additional wear and tear to clothing and footwear caused by disability
- special washing powders or laundry
- additional costs of bedding, for example because of incontinence
- costs of basic cleaning, garden maintenance or other domestic help, if needed because of disability and not met by social services
- personal assistance costs, including household or other necessary costs for the individual
- additional costs of special dietary needs due to disability
- purchase, maintenance and repair of disability related equipment, this may include computer costs where necessitated by the disability
- transport costs needed because of disability, including costs of transport to and from day centres, where this costs more than the mobility component of DLA and is not provided by social services.
Your local authority might use a set amount to cover disability related expenditure, but if you think what you spend on disability related costs is higher than that set amount, you should say this.
Once the local authority has worked out your income and your living costs, it has an amount of money 'left over', from which you could be asked to pay charges for your care and support.
Frequently asked questions (FAQ)
We've created some FAQs to help answer some of the questions you might have about paying for support.
Click the questions below to reveal each answer:
How much should I be left with after charges?
Once income and living costs have been taken into account, the council must make sure the charges are “reasonable” in terms of the kind of service being provided and are not above the cost of providing the service. This means the local authority cannot make a profit from charges for services.
Even if you can pay the charges decided on by a local authority, the council cannot force you to pay if this would leave you with too little money to live on. The law states that paying towards your support should not leave you with less than a certain amount. This is called the “minimum income guarantee”, and it is different for different people depending on their circumstances.
If the charges are for residential services this does not apply, as it is assumed that the care home or college provide you with everything you need to live on. In that case, you must be left with at least £24.90 a week as a personal expenses allowance (PEA), which should not be spent on any aspect of care, board or lodgings but is for you to spend as you wish.
How does it work if I get direct payments?
If you receive direct payments to arrange your support, the council can still ask you to contribute some money towards your care. In general they will do this by deducting the amount they are charging you from the direct payment before you receive it, so you get the ‘net’ amount and don’t need to pay any charges out of that or out of your income. Whether a council does it this way, or gives you the ‘gross’ amount and charges you separately, is up to them but the council should take into account your views and be flexible in responding to individual circumstances.
The amount, which is either deducted from the payment you get or charged separately, must be decided based on a financial assessment as outlined above.
What responsibilities do councils have regarding charging?
Firstly, if the council is planning on introducing a new charge or increasing an existing charge, they must inform all those affected of their plans and find out what they think through a formal consultation. No changes can be made until this has been done, so there should always be the opportunity for those affected to say what they think about the changes and how they will be affected.
The local authority must also identify other sources of financial help for all those faced with charges, including benefits, and give clear advice on this. Councils have a responsibility to try to maximise the income of those being asked to pay a charge.
If you oppose a decision about how much you should be charged for services, whilst this is being resolved the local authority cannot stop providing you services. Local authorities have a legal duty to meet your eligible needs – this does not go away during negotiations over charges. If the local authority does not fulfil any of these responsibilities, their decisions over charging can be challenged.
What about NHS Continuing Health Care and Mental Health Act Aftercare?
In some situations, you will not have to pay anything for the care and support you receive. These include:
- when the NHS has decided that your care and support needs are caused by a health condition. They will say you have a ‘primary health need’. The NHS will then fund your care and support and will not charge you for this. This is called Continuing Health Care.
- when you have been detained in a hospital or an assessment and treatment unit under certain sections of the Mental Health Act. Section 117 of the Mental Health Act is called Aftercare. When you are discharged from hospital or the assessment and treatment unit, health and social services must provide the care and support you need without charging you. More information about Aftercare.
How can I challenge unfair charging decisions?
If you cannot afford the charges you are asked to pay, the first thing you should do is ask the local authority how they have calculated your charges, and then check that calculation against their rules. Their rules should be published on their website.
You should also send the council a breakdown of your finances showing that your disability expenses are as high as your disability benefits and that you have no extra income – therefore you cannot afford the charges you are being asked to pay.
If this does not change the council’s decision, the council should then tell you how to challenge it. Each local authority has a different complaints procedure and this procedure should be made clear to anyone who wants to complain. Councils can take you to court for refusal to pay charges. If the council says it is considering taking you to court, you should seek legal advice immediately. Find sources of legal support.
We've created the following factsheets to help you with the benefits application, Care Act assessment and follow-up process:
- Delays in receiving benefits (PDF, 52 KB) - this factsheet explains the options that may be available to you whilst you're waiting for your first payment.
- Mandatory reconsiderations (PDF, 48 KB) - this factsheet explains what to do if you wish to challenge a benefit decision.
- Reasonable adjustments (PDF, 425 KB) - this factsheet explains what changes should be made by the Job Centre and DWP for people with a learning disability who are looking to claim benefits.
- What happens next (PDF, 367 KB) - this factsheet sets out what should happen after your Care Act assessment.
- Reviews and new assessments (PDF, 219 KB) - this factsheet is for people who already receive care and support through a package of social care and what they can expect from the review and assessment process.
- Direct payments (PDF, 72 KB) - this factsheet explains how people with a learning disability and their families can receive direct payments to arrange their social care support themselves.
How to get the support you need
Contact the Learning Disability Helpline, our advice and support line, for guidance and information about what support we can offer you.
Or why not take a look at FamilyHub? This is our online community for parents and family carers of people with a learning disability, and is a place for sharing experiences, advice and support.