19 Nov 2021

Local authority funding for care costs – do you qualify?


What care services do local councils provide?

As well as providing places in care homes, local councils can help you stay in your own home if you have care needs.

Services they provide include:

  • meals
  • carers
  • transport
  • home modifications
  • equipment that helps with the tasks of daily living.

Local councils might provide some of these services free to everyone who needs them. But for most care services, your local council will only pay if your income and savings are low.

Even if you qualify for maximum funding from your local council, you’ll usually still need to pay something towards your care costs. If you have lots of savings or a high income, you’ll probably have to meet the full cost yourself.

If you have a disability or complex medical condition that means you have healthcare needs rather than social care needs, you might qualify for NHS funding.

How to find out if you qualify for local council funding for care costs

Contact the social services department of your local council to ask for a care needs assessment. Either at the same time as the needs assessment or soon just after, your local council will carry out a financial assessment to see if you qualify for funding if they deem your needs as eligible when assessed against national criteria.

If you have savings and assets of more than the amounts in this table, you’ll have to pay for your own care in full (middle column) or in part (last column):

Region Upper savings threshold for any local council funding in 2021/22 Lower savings threshold for maximum local council funding in 2021/22





£24,000 (care at home) or £50,000 (care in a care home)

£24,000 (care at home) or £50,000 (care in a care home)




Northern Ireland



If your savings are above the upper limit (shown in the middle column of the table), you’ll have to pay your full care costs yourself until your savings have fallen below that threshold.

But it’s still worth contacting your local council or trust, as you still have the right to a free care needs assessment, regardless of your financial situation.

If your savings are below the upper limit, but above the lower limit (shown in the last column), your local council will pay some of your care costs. But you’ll also be expected to contribute out of your savings.

This doesn’t apply in Wales, where there’s just one savings limit – you get no funding (above the limit), you get some help (below the limit).

Even if your savings are below the lower limit, which means you get the maximum funding from your local council, you’ll usually still be expected to pay part of your income towards the cost of care.

Getting a local council care needs assessment

Before they can help, your local council must carry out a care needs assessment. It’s free and it’s your legal right to have one.

You shouldn’t be refused an assessment because the local council thinks your needs aren’t great enough or that you won’t qualify for financial help.

The local council will identify your care needs and check that they meet a nationally agreed set of criteria.

If you qualify for help, they have a legal duty to provide or arrange the services you need.

They’ll then carry out a financial assessment to work out if you should pay towards any services you need.

If you live in England, Wales or Scotland

To find out which local council is responsible for your assessment, go to GOV.UK website

If you live in Northern Ireland

Your local Health and Social Care Trust will carry out a social care needs assessment.

Find your local Health and Social Care Trust on the nidirect website

Financial assessment and eligibility

If you qualify for help, your local council will carry out a financial assessment.

This is called a ‘means test’. It helps to work out how much you should pay towards the cost of your care.

The outcome of the financial assessment

The outcome of the financial assessment will be that the local council will:

  • agree to meet the full cost of your care needs
  • agree to meet some of the cost – and you’ll need to top up the rest, or
  • leave you meet the full cost of your care.

You’ll get a statement called a ‘personal budget’ that sets out the cost of the care, the amount you must pay and how much the local council will pay.

Deciding who manages your personal care budget

If you qualify for financial help, you can:

  • ask your local council to arrange the care services for you
  • receive direct payments from the local council and organise things yourself – this can give you more independence, choice and control of your care and your finances
  • have a ‘mixed package’ – this is where the local council arranges some parts of your care and you receive direct payments for other parts.

If you opt for direct payments, you can ask someone else to manage your budget and organise services for you. This might be a family member, friend, care professional or an independent advocate.

What to do if you don’t agree with the local council’s decision

You can challenge the local council’s decision if:

  • they refuse to pay for your care services
  • you don’t think you’ve been offered enough support to meet your needs.

Changes to social care cap in England from October 2023

The government announced a new £86,000 cap on the amount you should have to pay for social care from October 2023.

The cap will cover fees for personal care, for example help with washing and dressing. Your local authority will keep track of your progress towards the cap. But it’s important to keep a record of the costs yourself to help ensure nothing is missed.

What won’t count towards your £86,000: anything the local authorities deem not ‘eligible’ for your care, any financial support they provide towards your costs, top-up payments you might make for premium amenities like better rooms, daily living or hotel and accommodation costs. 

Under the new plans, from October 2023: 



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