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Should families pay care home ‘top-up’ fees?

Researching and then finding the ideal care home placement for your relative or loved one is not always a straightforward process. If your loved one has specific needs or personal requirements, the challenge is heightened. However the added layer of complexity comes in when your loved one cannot afford to pay or contribute towards their own care. This scenario is one which families come across all too often, and if the loved one cannot pay, the local authorities and potentially family members can be left to cover the cost.

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Who is responsible for what?

When push comes to shove, it is the local authorities who are ultimately responsible for finding a suitable place for individuals to live and receive care – even if they cannot afford to pay for their own care. That being said, there is a limit to how much local authorities are prepared to pay.

The place that local authorities find must genuinely meet the needs of the individual in question – following an assessment. Families are not required to contribute just so that a loved one can receive the care that they need. However, if you or your loved one does not want to accept the place offered by local authorities for any other reasons – then you are able to find a place yourself elsewhere.

Covering the Costs

If you find a care home place somewhere else that you prefer to the one selected by the local authorities, then you can opt for this. However, if the cost of your chosen place is higher than the one the local authorities have selected then this creates a deficit above what the local authorities would be prepared to pay. It is in this instance where, if the individual cannot contribute, that families are asked to make payments towards the cost of the care. These contributions, whether made by the individual or the family, are referred to as top up fees.

Should the Family Be Asked to Contribute?

Many families have argued that they should not be required to pay anything towards the care of their loved one. In some situations, families have been asked to contribute when they are already themselves facing financial difficulty.
On the flip side, while we are seeing an ageing population where people are living much longer, local authorities are struggling under the pressure of people not necessarily staying in good health for longer. This has left many individuals struggling with poor health for much longer periods of time than ever before.

Advice to Families

Families who feel that the placement that has been offered to their loved one is not appropriate are advised to raise this directly with the local authorities and the individual’s social worker to see what can be done. While there are usually a large amount of placements available locally, there are situations where individuals and their families are not happy with the placements being made.

With an already stretched budget for social care within local authorities nationwide, sometimes top up fees are the only way that families will be 100% happy with the outcome of the placement process. While future planning is already in place to cope with the growing demand for residential care home places, in the short term the budget provisions for individual is likely to continue to be stretched.

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