Under care rules in England, when someone enters residential care, their property must be disregarded from care fee assessments if their spouse or civil partner still lives there after they’ve moved into care.
Therefore, Mrs N was surprised when the local authority told her that her family home would be eligible for assessment for her husband’s care fees. The council alleged that Mr N had deliberately deprived himself of assets to pay for his care by transferring the family farmhouse to his stepson the previous year.
The council took this to mean the property was “notional capital” – and would count it towards Mr N’s assets as if he still owned it. This was even though the house had already been transferred and Mr N didn’t own the assets to pay self-funding fees.
Mrs N contacted our Private Client team for advice. Tonina and the team supplied the council with evidence of the motivation for the transfer, and supported Mrs N with furthering her letters of complaint. Tonina also engaged the Local Government and Social Care Ombudsman to review the council’s decision and make a determination as to whether or not the council had followed the correct process.
This was because the council had both failed to consider why the property had been transferred before suggesting deliberate deprivation – and counted the entirety of the property, including Mrs N’s share, which should have been ignored.
Following Tonina’s engagement with the ombudsman and the council, a finding was reached that the council had failed to follow guidance through not detailing any consideration over motivation for transferring the property. The council were recommended to reconsider their position and re-assess Mr N’s contributions to care.
The council did this, and removed the house from Mr N’s financial assessment. Mrs N now has peace of mind that the council will not be trying to collect a debt which isn’t owed and that her husband’s care fee contributions have been properly calculated.
To compensate, the council was directed to apply £500 towards care costs, and a credit note refund was issued for more than £50,000.
Following the case, Tonina said: “The council made a serious error in the assessment and calculation of care funding here, and as a result, wrongly suggested deliberate deprivation. Sadly, I am seeing an increase in these types of decisions from local authorities, and it is unfortunate that many individuals do not seek to challenge them.
“It is important that council staff take time to properly assess each case on its merits and that they don’t apply blanket assumptions like this to innocent circumstances. Such determinations can have significant consequences for families at an already difficult time.”