Thursfields Solicitors has issued crucial advice for families facing huge top-up bills towards the costs of their loved ones who are so ill that they need residential care.
The guidance comes after it was revealed that a pensioner’s personal savings were running out because she was having to pay Ł550 a week towards the residential care of her husband, who suffers from severe dementia.
The story was just one in a BBC report which says the current council-run and means-tested system is a “fundamental source of unfairness” that leaves many people without the social care support they desperately need.
Tracy Ashby, a senior associate solicitor at Thursfields, is an expert in care funding, safeguarding individuals and Court of Protection applications, and is a full member of Solicitors for the Elderly.
She said: “There’s often a lack of advice given to people in such stressful and upsetting situations.
“In this case, it could well be that the wife shouldn’t have been forced into such large top-ups, as it’s clearly having such a personal detrimental effect on her.”
Ms Ashby explained that local authorities have certain statutory obligations and responsibilities as outlined in the Care Act 2014, and that these are supposed to be based on person-centred considerations, rather than just financial circumstances.
“The additional payment must always be optional and never as a result of commissioning failures leading to a lack of choice,” she said.
“That means top-up fees shouldn’t be a standard request, but they often are because local authorities are regularly focused on finance first, care second. Unfortunately, this can happen because advice isn’t given or obtained when a relative is entering care.”
Ms Ashby urged people facing a situation where their loved ones need residential care to always seek professional legal advice to make sure they are treated fairly by the system.
She added: “The UK’s social care system is in disarray, as evidenced by the fact that the Green Paper on this subject due out before the summer recess has now been delayed to coincide with the NHS proposals in the Autumn.
“At this time of chaos, people need a trained solicitor who can outline what the rules actually are, what help is available and whether the NHS should contribute.
“Importantly, a solicitor trained in the complex detail of care costs can explain what to do if the local authority refuses to work with the family and help at a time when a dispute could cause further detriment to the person in care.
“Funds are limited but this shouldn’t mean that people should suffer, nor that self-funders should prop up the failing system.”
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Notes to Editors
Thursfields Solicitors is one of the region’s longest established and reputable law firms, with more than 150 staff in eight offices across Worcestershire and the West Midlands. Thursfields Solicitors provides a full range of legal services to business and the private individual, including property, family, employment and commercial law as well as probate and litigation. The firm has offices in Worcester, Kidderminster, Halesowen, Sedgley, Stourport-on-Severn, Solihull and Birmingham.