The law states that where the local authority is funding accommodation, it must allow a person entering residential care to choose which care home they would prefer, within reason.

Social services must first agree the home is suitable for your needs and it would not cost more than you would normally pay for a home that would meet those needs. Local authority help with the cost of residential care is means-tested. You are free to make your own arrangements if you can afford the long-term cost. However, it is worth asking the local authority for a financial assessment, because it might pay some or all of your care costs.

Financial Assessments

In the financial assessment, the local authority can only take into account income and assets you own. The local authority cannot ask members of your family to pay for the basic cost of your care. Read more about local authority funding for care and funding your own care. If you choose a care home that costs more than the local authority usually expects to pay for a person with your needs, you may still be able to live in the care home if a relative or friend is willing and able to pay the difference between what the local authority pays and the amount the care home charges - this is known as a "top-up" fee. However, if their situation changes and they are no longer able to pay the top-up, the local authority may have no obligation to continue to fund the more expensive care home place and you may have to move out. It is worth thinking about this potentially difficult situation when deciding on care home options.

Do not cancel your tenancy or sell your home until the final decision has been made by the local authority. The value of your home must not be included in the local authority's means-testing until 12 weeks after you've confirmed that the care home placement will be permanent.

The Care Act 2014 is changing how people are able to pay for their own care, introducing the right for you to ask for the local authority to pay for the cost of your care while you try to sell your home. This is known as a "deferred payment scheme".

Choosing a care home if you're funding your own care

If you are funding your own care, you have a great deal of options, and you will need to do a lot of research on which care home provides the best options for you in terms of its cost, location, services, and a host of other potential factors. One of the best places to start is by searching a directory of care homes with nursing, or searching a directory of care homes without nursing.

Choosing a care home if you're having care provided by the local authority

After a needs assessment from social services, you will be provided with a care plan, which should make clear whether you need residential care and what other options, if any, might be available and most appropriate based on your needs. Even if you're unlikely to be eligible for financial help with residential care home fees, it could still be worth involving social services. The needs assessment, and information they provide, are likely to be very helpful in making decisions about care.

Advice on paying for care

Even if your local authority is not able to help fund your care, it will be able to make an assessment of your care and support needs. From this, the local authority can provide you with access to a range of information and advice available locally. You can also get independent advice from:

  • The Money Advice Service website: offers information on paying for care or the option to speak to an online adviser. You can call the Money Advice Service on 0300 500 5000.
  • The Society of Later Life Advisers: the society can also help you find advice on how to make financial plans for care in your old age.
  • Find Me Good Care: a website of the Social Care Institute for Excellence. It has advice on all aspects of planning and funding social care.
  • Age UK: has great advice for older people and those planning for their later years.
  • Which? Elderly Care has a guide to financing care