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Why It’s Vital To Get Assessed For NHS Continuing Healthcare Funding Before Getting Into Debt

Why It’s Vital To Get Assessed For NHS Continuing Healthcare Funding Before Getting Into Debt

We were recently contacted by an enquirer who told us of her despair after being harassed and bullied by the Local Authority to repay her mother’s care home fees which had been funded under a ‘Deferred Payment Scheme’.

Essentially, if your relative is not eligible for NHS Continuing Healthcare Funding, then they may pass over to the Local Authority, who can provide funding for your relative’s care if they have capital or savings less than £23,250 (which includes the value of their home).

In some circumstances, individuals may be asked to contribute to the cost of their care if it exceeds the Local Authority set ‘bed rate’ for that particular care home.

For example: If the cost of your relative’s care in a care home is £1,200.00 per week, but the Local Authority will only contribute a fixed rate of £800.00, then your relative will have to pay (ie top-up) the difference unless they move into a different care home within the approved £800 budget. If, your relative stays in the more expensive care home but is unable to afford the full cost, they can liaise with the Local Authority and be considered for payment on credit terms under a ‘Deferred Payment Scheme’.  Under this arrangement, the Local Authority will fund the shortfall in the care home fees (i.e. £400 per week) on the understanding that your relative will repay them at some future stage – either upon the sale of their home whilst living, or out of the sale proceeds upon death.

Invariably, to protect their position and give comfort and security, a Local Authority will insist on taking a legal charge over your relative’s property, so that in the event of it being sold one day, they will be able to recoup the monies due to them out of the sale proceeds.

Under the Deferred Payment Scheme there will be a contract in place between the Local Authority and your relative (or their representative/Attorney appointed under a Lasting Power of Attorney), to repay the Local Authority’s monies at a stipulated time or event happening, eg upon the sale of their home.

WARNING: If you have signed this contract as your relative’s representative, the Local Authority could pursue you personally for repayment – holding you directly and personally liable to make repayment. Given the legalities of a contract under the Local Authority’s Deferred Payment Scheme, there is unlikely to be any ‘wriggle’ room if you default in making payment. The Local Authority can issue Court proceedings against you and take enforcement action to recover monies contractually due to them.

In the enquirer’s situation, she was acting in her capacity as her mother’s representative and was forced to sell some private land she owned to offset the monies owed to the Local Authority under a Deferred Payment Scheme. However, despite her best endeavours, the sale proceeds weren’t enough and left a shortfall. The Local Authority issued Court proceedings against her to claim the balance due, and in doing so, incurred legal costs, court fees and additional interest, which were all added to the sum claimed. Unfortunately, she was emotionally and mentally overwhelmed by the whole situation and buried her head in the sand. The matter became too much for her to cope with.  Instead of engaging with the process, she did nothing, hoping it would all go away. It didn’t, and now she has a County Court Judgment registered against her name, causing her greater anxiety and depression. Her anxiety is so bad, that she dreads getting her daily post. Due to the stress of the situation, she has lost weight and it has made her unwell.

Advice: If you get into this situation, do not bury your head in the sand and ignore the matter.  You must seek legal advice immediately. Speak to the Citizens Advice Bureau or an approved debt management company, lawyer, or other relevant organisation, to get help and advice. You may be able to reach an agreement with the Local Authority if you are in financial hardship.

However, it transpires that the enquirer’s mother was, in fact, belatedly assessed and found eligible for NHS Continuing Healthcare Funding – a package of free-funded care provided by the NHS that is free at the point of need if you have a ‘primary health need’ and which is not means-tested.  Arguably, had her mother been properly assessed at the outset some time ago, and been awarded NHS funding at that stage, then all the care home fees would have been paid for in full by the NHS, meaning that:

  • There would be no need to involve the Local Authority and enter into a Deferred Payment Scheme;
  • There would be no registered legal Charge on her property;
  • She would not have had to sell her own private land to try and fund her mother’s debt owed to the Local Authority;
  • There would be no Court claim, no lawyer’s fees and no interest payable.

Typical: Like most of the population our enquirer had never heard of CHC at the time her mother went into care. There was clearly a failing by the hospital, care home, NHS or Local Authority at the outset to mention the availability of NHS Continuing Healthcare Funding and/or to have her mother robustly assessed to see whether she was eligible for funding when she moved into a care home setting. Instead, our enquirer has been placed into debt and has had the stress and anxiety of dealing with the Local Authority and their appointed solicitors, whilst racking up additional Court fees, legal costs and interest.

Lesson: This whole situation could possibly have been avoided. You MUST spread the word and tell others about the availability of NHS Continuing Healthcare Funding!

Conclusion:

Before you discuss payment of your relative’s care home fees or consider entering into any contract about funding your relative’s care, or engaging a Financial Advisor, you MUST first consider whether it is appropriate to arrange for your relative to be assessed for NHS Continuing Healthcare Funding. If found eligible for this fully-funded package of free care, it could save your relative thousands of pounds in care home fees, avoid huge stress and anxiety, and also avoid being diverted down the wrong path towards potential debt.

Remember our motto: NHS Continuing Healthcare Funding is all about “health, not wealth!”

Farley Dwek Solicitors offer various services to help families at every stage of the NHS care funding assessment process or appeal. Call us for a free initial consultation on 0161 272 522 or 0800 011 4136

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