Providing financial information and advice
Cambridgeshire County Council staff and other frontline workers and practitioners should have the knowledge to direct people to the financial information and advice they need ensuring that they are able to support and guide people to make good financial decisions.
Financial information and advice is fundamental to enabling people to make well-informed choices about how they pay for their care. It is integral to a person’s consideration of how best to meet care and support needs, immediately or in the future.
The Council must provide financial information and advice to people with care and support needs and ensure people understand how to access this if it is relevant to them, including:
- understanding care charges such as; paying for care and support in your own home; in a residential or nursing home; deferred payments and top-ups
- ways to pay
- money management (from basic budgeting to more complex financial planning)
- making informed financial decisions
- facilitating access to independent and regulated financial information and advice.
In identifying someone’s need for financial information and advice it is important to recognise that no one’s circumstances will be the same. The various starting points on a person’s journey will affect what is required and should influence the financial information and advice they require.
The following groups in particular are likely to need independent financial information and advice:
- those individuals and families paying for care (self-funders)
- informal / unpaid carers
- people accessing preventative services
- people considering a deferred payment agreement
- someone paying a top-up fee or entering into a financial agreement
- those making decisions on behalf of another person.
Before providing financial information or advice directly to a person, staff and practitioners must assess whether the person has mental capacity relating to finance AND establish whether the person has a deputy of the Court of Protection or a person with Lasting Power of Attorney acting on their behalf.
Staff and practitioners should also be aware and provide for the fact that some people will be less able to protect themselves from theft, fraud and financial exploitations and report any concerns by following the safeguarding adults procedures.
Planning for the present and the future
Care decisions are often made quickly and at a time of crisis, and they can often involve family and friends in the process. Staff and practitioners must have regard to the importance of identifying those who may benefit from independent financial advice or information as early as possible.
Our staff and practitioners should be aware of changes in circumstances and trigger / crisis points to identify those who may benefit from independent financial advice.
When making financial plans about how to pay for care and support, a person needs to have confidence in what to do in the present, a view ahead to the future and a plan for what to do if / when circumstances change.
This long-term outlook means that people will want to access financial information and advice at different points in their journey to enable them to make sustainable plans to pay for their care.
Some people may wish to consider a Lasting Power of Attorney whilst they still have the capacity to make it easier for their family and for their own peace of mind.
Understanding care charges
The Council must provide information to help people understand what they may have to pay, when and why, and how it relates to their individual circumstances.
This must include the charging framework for care and support, how contributions are calculated (from both assets and income) and the means tested support available, top-ups, and how care and support choices may affect costs.
Ways to pay
The Council must provide people with information on the availability of different ways to pay for care including through income and assets (e.g. pension or housing wealth), a deferred payment agreement, a financial product or a combination of these things. Information given should be pertinent to individual circumstances and access to independent sources of information or advice facilitated where relevant, for example, for a self-funder or someone considering a deferred payment agreement.
Different people will need different levels of support from the Council and other providers of information and advice depending on their financial capability, their care needs and the amount they are expected to contribute.
At the lower end of the spectrum, people may just need some basic information and support to help them rebalance their finances in light of their changing circumstances. Topics may include welfare benefits, advice on good money management, help with basic budgeting and possibly on debt management. The Council may be able to provide some of this information itself, for example of welfare benefits, but where it cannot, it should help people access it.
Making informed financial decisions
The Council must support people to make informed, affordable and sustainable financial decisions about their care throughout all stages of their life. In many situations the role of our staff and practitioners will be to understand the circumstances of the person, understand their preferences and help them to access the tailored information and advice that they need to make well-informed decisions. Where a person lacks capacity, the authority must establish whether a person has a Court of Protection or Lasting Power of Attorney in operation.
Staff and practitioners must offer to consider a person’s specific circumstances and provide information about the methods of paying for their care. Staff and practitioners may consider the timing and context of any retirement decisions a person might be making and how this interacts with paying for their care and support.
Independent financial advice
Independent means independent of the Council and will be reflected in the way the financial information and advice service is provided. These services could be provided by through partners such as charities, voluntary sector organisations, and commercial organisations and include unregulated and regulated providers. These services may be free or incur a fee or commission.
Unregulated financial information and advice might include a service that, where appropriate, offers or signposts to regulated financial advice, a national resource such as a free advice line, fact sheets produced by a charity, an online budgeting tool or the Citizen’s Advice Bureau.
Regulated financial advice can only be given by providers regulated by the Financial Conduct Authority. The Council should actively help and direct a person to a choice of financial advisers regulated by the Financial Conduct Authority (FCA) with the appropriate qualifications and accreditation. Regulated financial advisers usually charge a fee or commission for their service; some offer the first hour of advice for free.
Staff cannot recommend a regulated financial adviser – the choice must be made by the individual or those holding legal responsibility to make decisions on their behalf and depends on their individual circumstances.
Individuals may also need to seek legal advice, depending on their situation.
Examples of different types of financial information and advice
Unregulated (General information)
- Understanding care charges
- Council care funding
- Understanding ways to pay
- Deferred payment agreements
- Housing options
- Money management
- NHS care funding
- Debt management
- Welfare benefits
- Care fees planning
- Property options
- Equity release
- Financial planning
- Investments / savings
- Wealth management
- Pensions / Pension transfers
- Health / life insurances
- Tax planning
Facilitating access to independent financial advice
People with good and impartial financial information and advice have a better understanding of how their available resources can be used more flexibly to fund a wider range of care options.
Staff and practitioners should also consider whether it is in a person’s best interests that they be signposted, directed or referred to sources of financial information and advice independent of the Council. In particular this may be appropriate when a person is entering into a legal agreement with a Council or other party.
Financial information and advice which is independent of the Council should include free and fee-based advice as well as covering regulated forms of financial advice.
Staff and practitioners should make people aware which independent services may charge for the information and advice they provide. Staff and practitioners should be able to actively describe the general benefits of independent information and advice and be able to explain the reasons why it may be beneficial for a particular individual based on what is known of their circumstances.
Staff and practitioners are not required or encouraged to make a direct referral to an individual independent financial adviser, but should actively help and direct a person to a choice of advisers with the appropriate qualifications and accreditation, doing so on a transparent basis.
Staff and practitioners can refer people to the Society of Later Life Advisers (SOLLA) which offers people a choice of local, accredited advisers specialising in long term care planning.