Councils boost support for self-funders but gaps remain, finds study

Authorities must provide access to earlier financial advice for self-funders to prevent hardship for them and reduce risks of them falling back on local authority funding, says think-tank report.

Councils have improved their support for people funding their own care but big gaps remain resulting in significant hardship for service users and financial risks for local authorities.

That was the message from a report out today from think-tank the Local Government Information Unit, Independent Ageing 2013, a follow-up to a similar report in 2011; both were sponsored by care insurance provider Partnership Assurance.

A survey of councils for the latest report found 100% provided basic financial information to service users following a needs or financial assessment, up from 55% in 2011, while 47% referred self-funders to regulated independent financial advisers following assessment, up from 6% in 2011. Also, 59% knew how many self-funders have fallen back on local authority funding because they have depleted their assets, up from 39% in 2011.

However, the report calculated that self-funders falling back on local authority support represented a significant and mostly avoidable cost to councils, estimating this at £425m in 2011-12. It said providing self-funders with early and effective financial advice could help them access products that could prevent them falling back on councils and reduce the stress on families of having to take decisions about funding care in an emergency.

Yet, just 17% of councils referred people needing care to regulated financial advisers before they received a care or financial assessment, while just half of authorities provided referral to an independent advice and advocacy service that provided financial information before assessment.

The report also said that the quality of referrals to financial advice by councils varied significantly, with some only signposting people and others monitoring the number and outcomes of referrals.

The LGIU said councils should provide people with financial information and advice before an assessment, something that is likely to be a requirement under the Care Bill when it comes into force in April 2015. It also urged councils to improve their understanding of the number of self-funders in their areas to calculate their potential liability should people need to fall back on local authority funding.

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