The Relatives and Residents Association says it has seen several cases in which elderly people are refused support with care fees because their local authority discovers, in the course of the financial assessment it makes of each new claimant, that a major asset, such as a house, has been given away.
They say that if people do not get advice at this point they may just go along with what the authority says, not realising that, in some instances, they could have a strong defence against the ‘deliberate deprivation’ rules that are being used increasingly by cash-strapped councils.
Chairwoman Judy Downey said: “It is quite difficult because they have to reimburse the local authority.
“Most people don’t have the clout, energy and information to dispute it. The reluctance by local authorities to offer deferred payments is increasing significantly.”
The Independent reports that in the most dramatic situations, families are forced to sell a home, even if its ownership has been transferred to a child, in order to pay care home fees.
At the moment, the basic rule in England is that a person has to pay for residential care from any capital they have, including their home, above the £23,250 threshold.
But, says the report, there is almost unanimous agreement that these rules are too harsh and go against a natural human desire among the elderly to leave something more substantial than £23,250 to their children.
The threshold is set to be increased to £100,000 under a Dept of Health White Paper, which is due by July 17 and was produced after a major Government review into the care system – but there are fears that the £1.7 billion costs of implementing the changes will result in it being pushed under the carpet.
The White Paper, which will come out a year after a Government-commissioned report produced by the Dilnot Committee, recommended changes in the system which would not only raise the threshold but also cap the total care cost exposure of each one of us to £35,000.
These proposals have received considerable support, including from the Association of Directors of Adult Social Services (ADASS), representig the heads of care teams in local authorities.
The Government is due to publish another document alongside the White Paper on the fundamental design of the social care system. But it would be no surprise to some experts if the Dilnot proposals are held over to be dealt with in the next three-yearly comprehensive spending review, due in 2015.