REPORT: Independent Ageing

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LGiU’s new report, Independent Ageing, written in association with Partnership, is highly topical – given the expected publication in July of the Dilnot Commission report on funding for long term care and support.

The LGiU found that around 25 per cent of self-funders fall back on state-funding, often because they have made poor decisions about how to fund their care. Independent Ageing argues that improving access to independent financial advice could help reduce the number of people who fall back on state-funding, saving councils money and allowing people to stay in a residential care home of their choosing for longer. 

Independent Ageing looks at the relationship between councils and local residents who fund their own residential adult social care.  The report was launched at an event at the House of Commons attended by Stephen Dorrell MP, Chair of the Health Select Committee, Heather Wheeler MP, chair of the All Party Parliamentary Local Government Group, and local government leaders, cabinet members and senior officers for adult social care.  The report was covered by The TelegraphLocal Government Chronicle (£) and the Municipal Journal.

Independent Ageing looked at uptake of financial advice among people who fund their own residential care (“self-funders”).  The report quoted evidence showing that, of 53,000 self-funders, only 14,000 people accessed independent financial advice when making decisions about how to fund their care.

Poor uptake of independent financial advice has a damaging impact on councils, as well as on self-funders.  The LGiU found that around 25 per cent of self-funders fall back on state-funding, often because they have made poor decisions about how to fund their care.  We estimate that this could cost councils up to £490 million per year.  Other independent estimates, however, suggest that cost could be as high as £1 billion.

Independent Ageing argues that improving access to independent financial advice could help reduce the number of people who fall back on state-funding, saving councils money and allowing people to stay in a residential care home of their choosing for longer.  The report recommends that councils looking to improve their performance in this area should consider the following measures:

1. Determine the number of self-funders falling back, and the potential liability

A significant minority of councils contacted by the LGiU said that they did not know how many self-funders are resident in their area.

2. Improve the content of council information

Council information is, in general, not sufficiently focused on the needs of self-funders.  Self-funders need to know about financial products that will help them meet residential care costs or on where to go to find such information.  To help improve communication, councils could consider redesigning publications to emphasise the importance and benefits of seeking financial advice.

3. Improve the delivery of council information

Provision of information must be supported by a follow up programme. Councils need to provide self-funders with a clear end-to-end process and, wherever possible, monitor individual progress.

4. Improve the timeliness of council advice to self-funders

Councils can help self-funders to avoid exhausting their own resources by taking a preventative approach.  Early provision of financial advice and information is vital to an individual’s potential to make positive decisions about the future of care funding.  Councils should provide financial advice to residents at the point when long term care is required but, ideally, before they get to the stage of needing a care needs assessment or financial assessment.

5. Increase the number of self-funders accessing financial advice

Councils are unlikely to be in contact with all self-funders in their area.   Councils can deliver financial advice to more of these people by working through existing contact points and other stakeholders.

6. Signpost to other sources of appropriate independent financial information and advice

Councils cannot provide the specialist financial advice that individuals require to make positive decisions about funding their future social care.  Putting People First, the joint local and central government strategy, recognised this and called for the public to be informed about where they can go to get the best information and advice about their care and support needs.  It is crucial that individuals are referred to an appropriately qualified IFA for financial advice about funding care.  The Society of Later Life Advisers (SOLLA), a not for profit organisation, runs an accreditation scheme with a clear code of practice for its members that is widely seen as a gold standard.  At the least, IFAs should possess the CF8 qualification in long term care insurance.

7. Councils need to have robust measures to monitor the quality and impact of financial information and advice

Signposting an increasing number of residents to IFAs places an obligation on councils to ensure the quality of their information and advice.  Investment in improving financial advice, meanwhile, places an obligation on councils to demonstrate the value of the intervention.

For more information on Independent Ageing, please contact report author Laurie Thraves on laurie.thraves@lgiu.org.uk or call 020 7554 2845.