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Can the BBC Care Calculator really help to predict the cost of care?

Care and support services are means-tested and services are not free to everyone. The Care Act 2014 has put a limit on how much people pay towards the cost of their care. The cap implementation has been delayed to 2020.

This calculator has been designed to help people with understanding of how the £72,000 care cap will affect them financially. This calculator should be used for illustrative purposes only, for residential and nursing care.BBC_Care_Calculator_predicts_the_cost_of_careThe cost of care, at home and in residential and nursing homes, is rightly moving into the spotlight. The BBC in the UK has created a Calculator to help work out how much care might cost. But are its conclusions really helpful or is it just too generalised to be of value? We look more closely.

Here at When They Get Older we were about to embark on a follow up to our series of articles about the care cap legislation coming into force in 2016, when the BBC Care Calculator was released. It re-ignited media interest in this really important piece of forthcoming legislation, that otherwise seems to have gone quiet in the press.

Plese note that the Cap implementation has been delayed to 2020.

How the Care Cost Calculator can help you

This Calculator is a fantastic piece of work at so many different levels. It is particularly useful to highlight all of the following.

The Calculator helpfully covers all areas of the UK and shows that there are significant regional differences in the cost of care and the government support that is available for that care.

The care cap of £72,000 is itself not all it seems. In calculating the maximum cap your parent will pay towards their care costs the local authority will remove elements such as the “cost of living” that covers food and lodgings (£230 per week). The length of time that your parent receives care also makes a significant difference, as you’ll see in our example below.

It’s important to be aware that local authorities will only pay for care provision in “approved” homes, often where they have contracted beds. (If you’re not happy with that home or the room allocated you can pay top-up fees yourself.)

The limitations of the Calculator

However here is a cautionary note for how literally the BBC Care Calculator* should be used.

The Calculator is based on averages. So we ask:

• How useful is it knowing that the average house price in the UK is £285,000? Does that fact help you value your parent’s home?
• Thinking about your own future, how useful is it knowing that the average wage in the UK is £26,500? Does that help you work out what your market worth is, and therefore what salary you could command?

The answer to both questions is a resounding “not very useful at all”.

The Calculator in action

We tried an example of these averages at work.

When I filled in the details for my mother-in-law the Calculator says that the average cost for care at home in my postcode is £218.00 per week. We have so many questions immediately.

Where does that figure come from? Is that one visit per day? Two visits per day? Continuous care in the home?

Home care to enable independent living is as individual as we all are, and there is no such thing as an average cost. We are already using care at home for my mother-in-law and we know that the actual cost is nearer to £400 per week. And this is only for two visits a day. If we were to need continuous care this would increase again considerably. So the Calculator figure at the end is flawed right there and then.

Similarly, the Calculator gives us a more realistic figure of £128,000 to expect as a care cap. This is based on a time period of four years and eight months. Again this figure will be based on some kind of average. What happens if my mother-in-law lives for 10 years’ in a home? It’s not likely, but it’s possible. And if you are planning financially, you have to plan for the possible not for the average. Living 10 years rather than four means that the total spent on care would be almost double that of the £128,000.

So how useful is the Calculator?

What’s our conclusion? If you are planning care for a loved one, the BBC Care Calculator is a fantastic introduction to the themes and issues that you need to be aware of. The attention to detail on regional differences is excellent. Use the Calculator and you will understand the issues. However we advise that you take the figures at the end with a pinch of salt, and certainly don’t use them to do any financial planning*.

And finally

It’s very hard to know ahead of time what the figures will be as your parent’s changing needs will dictate this. But it is still reassuring to know that should they live so long that their money runs out there will be a safety net of local authority contributions that will continue to look after your loved one. That’s surely good news.

*The BBC makes it clear that the Calculator just gives an estimate and that it does not constitute financial advice.

If you found this article helpful you may like to read:

• What is NHS Continuing Healthcare funding and what are the myths about claiming it?
• The rules about care fee funding and deprivation of assets
• What are Personal Budgets and what do I need to know about them?

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