What are 'top up' fees?
A top up fee may be asked of the family when the local authority contribution doesn’t quite meet the cost of the care home fees. When this happens, the family could be asked to make up the difference. This is called a ‘third party top up agreement’ and usually requires the approval of the local authority.
This would happen after the local authority has carried out their health and social care needs assessment and a financial means test. If at this point, the LA agrees that the individual is eligible for a contribution, they will pay towards the weekly care fees on behalf of the person who needs care. However, if this contribution doesn’t cover the whole care home cost, then a ‘top up’ may be required.
Do I pay for my own top up fee?
Usually as the resident, you are not expected to cover the cost of a top up fee. This is because when assessing your care need and financial situation the local authority will make a judgement about whether you can fund your own care. they would therefore not expect you to be able to fund additional costs. If a top up fee is needed, this may be asked of the family instead to make up the difference between the local authority contribution and the fee charged by the home.
There are specific circumstances where this might not be the case:
- Where you have a deferred payment scheme in place
- Where you have a property to sell that is in a ‘property disregard period’
What is a means test?
This is the blanket term given to how a local authority looks at a person’s financial situation. For the purposes of awarding weekly care contributions each country sets out its annual thresholds which are usually amended/published each April (at the start of the new tax year). The means test covers your share of any joint assets but doesn’t include your family’s finances.
What’s assessed in a means test?
The means test will look at the resident’s regular income such as earnings, benefits or a pension. Although earnings from paid work should be disregarded. It will also consider any capital and assets you have such as investments, cash savings and your property.
Advice about paying for care
It’s important to get professional advice on the best way to fund the cost of care and we suggest that you take advice from a care fees expert to make sure that you have explored all the options available to you.
In order to make life easier we have contacted a national care fees planning specialist, Symponia, who are dedicated to the financial issues of later life, in particular the payment of care fees. Read more about how Symponia can help you and download their helpful handbook.