People with care needs are free to spend their money as they see fit

…able to spend their money on things other than their care, and this includes continuing to give gifts to friends and family.

The LOCAL GOVERNMENT & SOCIAL CARE OMBUDSMAN criticised a local authority that refused to pay care home fees for elderly lady after learning she made regular cash gifts to her family after being admitted to the care home.

lady in careThe lady Mrs Y aged 80 was admitted to a care home in 2007 with assets of approx. £250k so was classed as self funding.

Her daughter sold her mother’s house and used the proceeds to pay the care home fees, but by January 2015 Mrs Y’s assets had fallen to £23,250 which is the threshold for obtaining local authority assistance.

Initially NYCC (North Yorkshire County Council) granted financial help pending a completion of a full financial assessment and began paying the fees (including the top-up fee!).

The financial assessment revealed that Mrs Y had been making annual cash gifts to her daughter and other family members since her admission to the care home (amounting to £75k in total). The council immediately stopped paying the fees and demanded a refund of nearly £7k on the basis that this was deliberate deprivation of assets.

The family paid back the £7k but complained to the Ombudsman about the council’s behaviour.

The Ombudsman’s decision (now published) – NYCC took its actions without ever completing a full financial assessment, simply assuming that the gifts were deliberate deprivation of capital, and its calculations on the amount of deprived capital were not backed up by any evidence.

It (NYCC) did not properly take into account the proven fact that there was already a pattern of gifting before Mrs Y went into care, with no evidence of any haste to dispose of her assets – no other evidence was provided to show why it had decided the gifts were made with the intention of avoiding care fees.

Mrs Y had paid the full amount of her care fees for 9 years and more than 70% of her money has been spent on care home fees.

The Ombudsman has now ordered the the council to apologise, reassess Mrs Y’s situation properly, and repay Mrs Y any fees to which she is entitled.

OMBUDSMAN (Michael King)

‘While I appreciate councils need to make decisions about whether people have deliberately reduced their assets, the guidance does state that people with care needs are free to spend their money as they see fit. Just because someone might be living in a care home, it does not mean they should not be able to spend their money on things other than their care, and this includes continuing to give gifts to friends and family.

Given Mrs Y’s prognosis when she entered the Care Home, and after paying for her care for nine years, it is hard to see how the council concluded every penny she gave away was done with poor intentions.’