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Residential care

If the person you are looking after is no longer able to live independently at home because their care needs have increased, and for whatever reason you can no longer provide the care they need, residential care can be a sensible and realistic option.

This section includes information that can help with:

  • making the decision that residential care might be an option for the person you are looking after
  • finding a residential care home
  • paying for residential care
  • the possible impact on any benefits that you or the person you are looking after may receive

Making the decision that residential care might be an option

Residential care for the person you are looking after might feel like a difficult option to consider. You may have really conflicting feelings about this. Carers have told us that they experience a mixture of sadness and guilt, whilst also feeling relief that the person they are looking after will be given a level of practical care and assistance that is now too difficult to maintain at home. Caring can be both physically and mentally exhausting and it can be much better to arrange the best residential care possible than struggle on until you reach crisis point.

“I know that feeling of having a huge weight lifted off your shoulders. It's what I felt when I made the decision that my brother had to be in a care home, and simply could not live independently any longer. I also know the guilt that comes with that decision.”  Anon – Forum user

If possible you should talk with the person you are looking after about how they feel about a move into residential care and discuss what is best for both of you. If either of you are finding the thought of a move upsetting or difficult to deal with, it may help to talk it over with a friend, family member, another carer, your GP or social worker.

Residential care homes should be happy for you to go and visit to look around and should answer any questions you both may have.

If the person you are looking after moves into residential care then this might mean your caring role comes to an end or it might mean that your caring role changes.

If your caring role will come to an end, you might find the section called life after caring useful.

If you will still be providing care to the person then remember that there might still be support you can get through the local council/trust as a carer; there might still be benefits that you can claim as a carer and/or there might still be rights in work you can access as a carer.

If the person you are looking after is unable to make decisions themselves, and you have power of attorney for the person, or if you are court appointed deputy for the person, then you will continue to have the authority to make relevant decisions on their behalf. If neither of these are in place then the residential care home should still take your views and feelings into account when any decisions are made on behalf of the person. For further information on lasting power of attorneys and court appointed deputies you might find the managing someone’s affairs section of our website helpful.

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Finding residential care

The local council/trust should be able to provide you with a list of residential care homes in the area, and should be able to advise on suitable residential care homes within their budget (if they are helping with the cost – see below) or the budget of the person you are looking after if they are self-funding.

You can search for residential care homes on the following websites:

  • in England the Care Quality Commission is the health and social care regulator and has an online directory of registered residential care homes
  • in Wales the Care and Social Services Inspectorate Wales is responsible for inspecting social care and social services and has an online directory of registered residential care homes
  • in Scotland the Care Inspectorate regulates and inspects care services and has an online directory of registered residential care homes
  • in Northern Ireland the Regulation and Quality Improvement Authority is the independent health and social care regulator and has an online directory of registered residential care homes

You can also use the Which? Care Services Directory where you can search for residential care homes anywhere in the UK.

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Paying for residential care

The person you are looking after may be able to get help with the cost of their residential care home fees from their local council/trust (depending on their income and capital) or from the NHS if they also have specific medical needs. Alternatively the person you are looking after may have to pay the full cost of their residential care home fees.

Help through the local council/trust

If the local council/trust assess the person you are looking after as needing residential care, then they may help with the cost.

To work out whether they will help with the cost they will firstly look at whether the person you are looking after has capital over a certain amount – this is explained in further detail below.

If the person you are looking after does not have capital over this amount, then the local council/trust will carry out a full financial assessment to see whether they will help with the cost. Local council/trusts must follow statutory guidelines when carrying out financial assessments, and these guidelines vary depending on whether the person you are looking after lives in England, Wales, Scotland or Northern Ireland. For further information on the financial assessment contact the Carers UK Adviceline.


 The capital limits

If the person you are looking after has capital over a certain limit, (which includes savings, investments and property which they own or have a legal entitlement to)  then they will need to pay the full cost of their residential care home fees. For 2016/17 the capital limit is:

  • in England and Northern Ireland - £23,250
  • in Wales - £24,000
  • in Scotland - £26,250

Only the capital of the person you are looking after, plus half of any joint capital, is taken into account.

If the person you are looking after owns their own home then it will usually be counted as capital 12 weeks after they permanently move into residential care. However, the value of the home will not be counted if certain close relatives are still living there (see below), and have been continually occupying the property as their main home since before the person entered residential care.

The value of the property can be disregarded (indefinitely if circumstances don’t change) if it is occupied by:

  • a spouse, civil partner, or partner (unless they are estranged)
  • a lone parent if they are the person’s estranged or divorced partner
  • a relative or member of their family who is aged 60 or over
  • a child under 18 (in England & Wales) or a child under 16 (in Scotland & Northern Ireland) who the person has a duty to maintain
  • a close relative or member of their family who is incapacitated

Other discretionary disregards may also apply.


 Help through the NHS

In England & Wales NHS continuing healthcare is a package of care arranged and funded by the NHS for those who are 18 or over and who have a ‘primary health need’. If this applies there should be no residential care home fees to pay regardless as to the income and capital of the person you are looking after. If it seems like the person you are looking after for might be eligible for NHS continuing healthcare, an assessment should be carried out for this. An initial checklist assessment determines if there is the need for a full assessment. The eligibility criteria for NHS Continuing Healthcare is quite restrictive and most people with ongoing care needs don’t qualify, but this should not put you off requesting the initial assessment if you feel it might apply.

In England & Wales NHS funded nursing care is available if the person you care for is 18 or over, is not eligible for NHS continuing healthcare, but is assessed as requiring nursing care in a care home that is registered to provide nursing care. This means that the NHS will pay a contribution towards the cost of the registered nursing care. For further information on NHS Continuing Healthcare you might find the NHS website useful.

In Scotland there is no NHS Continuing Healthcare for care outside of a hospital setting.

In Northern Ireland there is currently no guiding framework for NHS continuing healthcare, which makes getting an assessment challenging. For further information contact Carers NI on 028 9043 9843 or This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

Paying the full cost themselves

If the person you are looking after is going to pay the full cost of the residential care fees themselves because they are not eligible for NHS Continuing Healthcare and/or because their income and capital is too high to get help with the cost through the local council/trust, then you should ensure that the fee payable is clear and transparent, and you know what any charges are for and when they are due.

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The possible impact of residential care on any welfare benefits you or the person you are looking after receive

If you or the person you are looking after for receive any benefits, these may be affected by a move into residential care.

Disability Living Allowance (DLA), Personal Independence Payment (PIP) and Attendance Allowance

If the person you are looking after for is a self-funder (which means if they are paying the full fees for the residential care) their DLA, PIP or Attendance Allowance can continue to be paid in full.

If the person you are looking after for gets help with the fees (either full help or partial help) from the local council/trust, the care component of DLA, the daily living component of PIP or Attendance Allowance will stop after they have lived in residential care for 28 days (and might stop sooner than this if they have been in residential care or hospital in the 28 days before their current stay). The mobility component of DLA and PIP can continue to be paid in full.

If the person you are looking after gets NHS Continuing Healthcare their DLA (both care and mobility components), PIP (both daily living and mobility components), or Attendance Allowance will stop after they have lived in residential care for 28 days (and might stop sooner than this if they have been in residential care or hospital in the 28 days before their current stay).

Although the DLA, PIP or Attendance Allowance might stop, the person you are looking after will still retain an entitlement to them. This means that if they spend any nights away from residential care (for example if they come home each weekend) then their DLA, PIP or Attendance Allowance can be paid at a daily rate for the days they are away from the residential care home (including the day they leave and the day they return). If there is a regular pattern it may mean that your Carer’s Allowance might be able to continue. This is complicated so for further information contact the Carers UK Adviceline.

Carer’s Allowance

If the person you care for is a self-funder and so continues to get their qualifying disability benefit (the middle or the higher rate of the care component of DLA, the daily living component of PIP or Attendance Allowance), and you continue to care for them for at least 35 hours a week, your Carer’s Allowance should continue (providing you continue to meet  all of the conditions for Carer’s Allowance).

If the person you look after is not a self-funder and their qualifying disability benefit stops after they have been in residential care for 28 days, then your Carer’s Allowance will stop at the same time.

Means-tested benefits

If you are getting any means-tested benefits such as Income Support as a carer or Pension Credit, you might be getting an additional amount of money included in this means-tested benefit called a Carer Premium or a Carer Addition.

If your Carer’s Allowance stops then this additional amount can continue to be paid for an extra eight weeks. You will need to contact the benefit agencies and let them know about your change in circumstances. They should then adjust the amount of benefit you get for the eight weeks. After the eight weeks the benefits you are able to claim may change. This is because some benefits such as Income Support rely on the person you care for getting their qualifying disability benefit.

If you are getting Universal Credit you might be getting an additional amount of money called a Carer Element. If your Carer’s Allowance stops then this additional amount can continue for the rest of your Universal Credit assessment period. At the end of this time it will stop and you may need to discuss a new Claimant Commitment with your work coach.

If the person you look after is your partner, civil partner or spouse, and they move into residential care, you will no longer be assessed as a couple for means-tested benefit purposes and will both be assessed as single claimants. This may mean that your benefits change or that you become entitled to benefits for the first time. It is a good idea to get a benefit check in this situation. Contact the Carers UK Adviceline for a full benefit check.

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