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Fees & Funding > Care Home Top Up Fees: Do You Have to Pay & Are They Legal?

Care Home Top Up Fees: Do You Have to Pay & Are They Legal?

If you or a close relative are looking at the prospect of going into a care home or nursing home in the coming months, or even years, then it makes sense to work out right now just how you are going to pay for your care. You may also be wondering just how much financial help you can also expect from your local authority in terms of care home top up fees.

Sometimes the amount of money the council are willing to contribute, together with your own payments, aren’t enough to pay for your care. In this event you will need what is referred to as, a ‘top up’ contribution.

In this article we have outlined what top up fees are, how to pay them and what help there is in the event that you can’t.

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What Are Care Home Top Up Fees?

A third party fee (often called a care home top up fee) is, just as the name suggests, when another person – rather than the council or yourself – pay the remaining balance of your care home balance. In most cases this is a relative, a good friend or a charity.

A third party fee is usually applied when the residential care home or nursing home you want to move to costs more than your personal budget. This is the amount the council is prepared to pay together combined with your own contribution.

Do You Need to Pay Them?

Care home top up fees should only be chargeable if an individual is receiving a genuine upgrade in care. And even then, they are voluntary.

The circumstances that could merit a top up fee could if you want additional facilities, such as a bigger room or one with a sea view, for instance.

Or, it could be that you can no longer afford your own care home fees and have now become reliant on the council’s funding. And they, in turn, believe another less expensive home can accommodate you equally as well.

Whether you will have a top-up fee to pay is your decision. They are legal, but there’s no legal requirement for a third party to meet this cost. Top up fees aren’t legal if the funding you’re receiving is from the NHS under Continuing Healthcare.

An individual who agrees to pay a top up fee for a relative or friend should be aware that this will be expected on an ongoing basis. It involves signing a legally binding contract with the care home to verify this.

If in the event the third party’s circumstances change and he or she can no longer afford to pay the top up fee then both the local authority and care home should be informed that this is the case.

The local authority may then attempt to negotiate with the care home to allow your relative to remain there. It could be they are moved to a smaller room, for instance. In the event this isn’t possible, it could be another less expensive care home is suggested (the impact on your relative should be assessed and taken into account before this happens). In the meantime, the council should pay the top up fees.

In fact, a top up fee should always be agreed with the local authority rather than the care home. That’s because the council is always legally responsible for the full costs of an individual’s care.

Who Pays?

Your local authority is responsible for care home top up fees. Although, sometimes a relative or friend approaches the care home and makes up the difference (third party top up). There is no legal requirement for them to do so, however.

Financial Support for Top Up Fees

In some instances, a charity may pay an individual’s top up fees in a care home. A website, such as Turn2us, may have details of which particular charities are involved in this type of provision.

Property Disregard Period

The property disregard period lasts for the first 12 weeks someone moves into a care home on a permanent basis. If they aren’t paying for their own care and looking for help from the council, then the value of their home can’t be included in their assessment during this time.

It may be the council will agree to pay for during these 12 weeks although the individual may also be asked to make a financial contribution.

The reason for this property disregard ‘break period’ is to give someone time to either sell their home or consider setting up a deferred payment arrangement.

However, if there is still someone living in the house, such as a spouse or close relative aged over 60 or even a close relative who is incapacitated in some way then the property won’t be included in the council’s assessment.

Deferred Payment Agreement

This is when an individual ‘defers’ payment of their care home fees. In other words, allowing the council to sell their home – but only after their death. The council can then reclaim the cost of the care they have already paid.

Deferred payment is an option open to everyone who, following a council assessment, is told it’s necessary for them to go into a home. To qualify you must have savings of less than £23,250 (excluding your home).

It is possible for the council to refuse a deferred payment request if an individual’s home isn’t worth much money or the council believe it may be problematic to try and reclaim the debt.

Dealing with Increasing Fees

It is common for care homes to increase their fees on an annual basis. However, that’s not to say the council will increase their payments in line with this.

If there isn’t another care home in the vicinity that’s right for an individual then the council will have to increase into payments.

Help if You Can No Longer Afford to Pay

If the third person paying for the care home accommodation can do so no longer then they will have to inform the council. Council staff will then carry out another assessment on what and how care needs there are and how they can be met.

Useful Resources

More on care home fees: https://lottie.org/fees-funding/care-home-costs/

Get help with your fees: https://lottie.org/fees-funding/care-home-fees-and-funding-help/

More info on top up fees: https://www.which.co.uk/money/pensions-and-retirement/financing-later-life-care/care-home-finance/care-home-top-up-fees-axm382m4767k

Frequently Asked Questions

Why do care homes charge a top up?

Care home fees often increase year-on-year, but local councils don’t always increase their funding by the same amount to reflect these changes. This means that you could find yourself paying more each year to cover the difference in fees.

What is a first-party top up?

Sometimes known as a resident top-up, there are specific circumstances where you can pay a top-up from your own money for your preferred accommodation. This is known as a first-party top-up. In this case, you’d still be responsible for paying an assessed charge from your capital and income during those 12 weeks.

What does a third-party top up mean?

A third-party top-up allows you to live in your preferred care home. This comes into play if that care home charges more than your local authority is prepared to pay.

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