Organising and paying for residential care

Care homes and nursing homes

Most people will never need residential care, but those who do usually have to pay their own care costs. There is a range of ways to reduce the risk of needing costly care services, including:

There are many care homes across Cambridgeshire and all are different. Some may have hundreds of bedrooms and specialised areas for people with dementia. Others might house a few people with learning disabilities. Care and support services are not free. Most people will have to pay something towards their own care and some will have to pay for all the costs.

An older person with a walking frame, with a hospital gown

If you will be paying for residential care you can choose whichever care home can meet your needs.

If we will be paying or contributing to your fees, the home you choose must:

  • meet the needs we identified during your assessment
  • follow our terms and conditions
  • cost less per week than our cap, unless someone else will be making top-up payments on your behalf

To find a care home which suits your need, think about:

  • location – is it in an area you like, countryside, or city, and is it convenient for friends and family to get to to visit?
  • would you prefer a larger, busier home, where you can meet lots of people, or a smaller quieter home?
  • would you like a home with a structured day, or one which is more relaxed?
  • is it important to have your own room, and would you want an en suite?
  • what other things are important to you to be able to feel at home?

Drawing up a list of potential care homes

You can find out about care homes in your area by:

You can make a list of care homes which might meet your needs. You can contact care homes to find out more information and visit those which sound suitable.

All care homes must produce a brochure including details of facilities, and services.

Age UK has guides on Choosing the right care home and a factsheet on Finding, choosing and funding a care home

You can visit care homes to get a better feel for whether they are right for you. Some homes will let you stay all day, others will take people on a trial basis.
You could turn up unannounced to see what life is really like there.
Try to take a list of questions with you when you visit.
Age UK has produced a checklist of things to ask care homes. You can print this out and take it with you.

Some of the things you should look out for are:

  • what are your first impressions?
  • do residents look clean, and happy?
  • is the home clean, safe and spacious?
  • do bedrooms meet your needs?
  • are residents allowed to bring their own furniture and/or personal items?
  • can you choose when to get up and go to bed?
  • can they meet your dietary requirements?
  • what are communal areas like?
  • does the home organise trips out?
  • are staff friendly and welcoming, including the manager?

Don’t be afraid to ask lots of questions, including about the level of care, the fees and if there is a waiting list. Try to visit a few care homes so you can compare them.
Please note - the cost of residential or nursing home care can increase each year.

It is important to check the quality of residential homes. Residential homes must meet national standards.

The Care Quality Commission (CQC)

The Care Quality Commission (CQC) is the independent regulator of health and social care services in England.
The CQC assesses whether care homes are:

  • safe
  • effective
  • caring
  • responsive
  • well-led

Inspection reports on are available online.

NHS Choices

NHS Choices has information on care agencies, care homes, nursing homes, Shared Lives and assisted living schemes. There are also links to the CQC reports.

Your Care Home Advisor

Your Care Home Advisor allows you to search for care homes, and find out how they are rated by the Care Quality Commission, NHS Choices, Your Care Rating, Food Standards Agency and the Health & Safety Executive.

If you have capital and/or savings of more than £23,250 you will probably pay the full cost of your care until your capital / savings drop below this. This includes, but is not limited to:

  • savings in bank / building society accounts
  • stocks, shares or unit trusts
  • premium bonds
  • National Savings
  • cash
  • value of property and land
  • any property you own will usually count as one of your capital assets.

The value of your home will be excluded if:

  • your partner, former partner or civil partner, except where you are estranged continues to live there or,
  • a lone parent who is your estranged or divorced partner continues to live there or,
  • an eligible relative aged 60 or over continues to live there or,
  • an eligible relative who is incapacitated continues to live there
  • your child under 18 continues to live there or
  • other special circumstances

If you have less than £23,250 but more than £14,250 in assets, savings or investments, you will pay a contribution to your care costs.

If you pay the full cost of your care yourself, you are known as a self-funder.

We strongly advise you to seek specialist financial advice from a qualified independent financial adviser. They can make sure that you are aware of your options for paying for your own care.

If your capital and savings is below £23,250 and you have a high level of needs, we will contribute to the cost of your care. You must have a financial assessment to work out how much you will pay.

If you do not give us information about your financial circumstances, you must pay the full cost of your care.

Your choice of care home will be limited to those that accept the Council's funding level. More expensive homes will expect you to arrange for a third party to ‘top-up’ the difference. You are not allowed to do this yourself if your capital is below £23,250. The only exception is when your placement is for a 12 week property disregard or for a deferred payment (see help with paying for residential care, below).

If your capital is less than £14,250 and the home you choose charges fees within our funding rate, your contribution will be assessed on your income only.

Deprivation of assets

Deprivation of assets means disposing of assets in order to be eligible for funding for care. 

Will we have to investigate, if you give away your money, or other assets, before or while you are living in residential care. If you sell an asset at less than market value, we must investigate this too. If deprivation has occurred it may mean we treat you as still having the asset you gave away.

People who fund their own care, usually pay for their care fees in the following ways:

  • using savings and /or income from investments
  • selling their home and using the proceeds to pay their care fees
  • renting out their property
  • purchasing a care fee payment plan: you pay a lump sum to an insurer who will then guarantee to cover residential and nursing care fees for the rest of your life

Before making any decisions you should seek independent financial advice.

Contact us

If you have a question or concern about your financial assessment please contact our Revenue and Assessment Team.

Box No: SCO2205

Room No: 2nd floor
Scott House
5 George Street
PE29 3AD
Telephone: 0300 126 3003

Twelve-week property disregard

We will help with costs during the first 12 weeks of permanent care if:

  • your former home is included in your financial assessment
  • your other capital is less than £23,250
  • your income is not enough to meet your care home fees
  • we agree that you need care

We will calculate your contribution during this period based on your income and remaining capital.

Deferred payment agreement

A deferred payment agreement enables you to use the value of your home to help pay care home costs. You can defer or delay paying for the costs of your care until a later date.

After the twelve-week property disregard period, your care costs will be charged against the value of your home and recovered once your house has been sold.

The payment for care and support will have to be repaid by you - or a third party on your behalf - at a later date.

Deferring payment can delay selling your home. It can provide flexibility for paying for care and support.

  • If you need nursing care, your local Clinical Commissioning Group (CCG) may pay towards the nursing element of your care costs. This is tax-free and non-means-tested.
  • If you need high levels of health care, you may be able to get your full care costs paid for by the NHS under the criteria for continuing health care.

Benefits you may be able to claim

Depending on your needs and circumstances, you may be entitled to:

  • Income Support
  • Pension Credit
  • Attendance Allowance if you are over 65 with disability-related care needs
  • Personal Independence Payment if you are under 65 with disability-related care needs

Your local Citizens Advice Bureau can help you with benefits advice. You can also see our information on benefits for adults and older people.

Third party contributions (Top-up payments)

If the care home you choose costs more than we usually pay for a person with your needs, someone will have to make up the difference. This extra payment is often referred to as a ‘top-up’ or ‘third party top-up’.

It is against the law to make this payment yourself. The only exception is when your placement is for a 12 week property disregard or for a deferred payment. The responsibility for this often falls to a member of your family or a benevolent sponsor such as a charity. Once confirmed, the person or organisation must sign a formal agreement.

Paying for care is a complex area. We recommend you get independent financial advice.

Contact us

If you have a question or concern about your financial assessment please contact our Revenue and Assessment Team.

Box No: SCO2205

Room No: 2nd floor
Scott House
5 George Street
PE29 3AD
Telephone: 0300 126 3003

You must tell us as soon as possible if the amount of your income or capital increases or decreases significantly during the year. If your capital is likely to reduce to £23,250, you must let us know well in advance.

What is a third party (top-up) contribution?

If you are eligible for a financial contribution from the Council, but the fees at the home you choose are  more than this, a third party can make up the difference.

A third party contribution is a weekly amount paid by someone - often a relative, friend, or organisation - towards the cost of residential or nursing home care fees when the fees are higher than the maximum amount we will contribute.

An agreement must be signed by whoever is paying the third party contribution.

You do not have to choose a residential or nursing care home that charges more than we will contribute. Some homes charge the same amount that the Council pays so there is no need for a third party contribution.

Who can make a third party contribution?

If you live in a residential or nursing care home permanently, you cannot usually pay the third party contribution out of your capital or weekly personal allowance. There are two exceptions:

  • if you have agreed a ‘12 week property disregard’ arrangement with the Council.


  • we have agreed a deferred payment agreement with you.

Relatives, friends, other individuals and organisations can pay third party contributions. Voluntary organisations can also help in some situations. Whoever pays a third party contribution must be able to show that they are willing and able to pay the difference between the amount the Council is able to contribute for a person with your needs and the fees the care home actually charges.

What happens if the third party stops paying contributions?

You may have to move to another residential or nursing care home that charges the same amount as we can contribute.

If people become unable to pay third party contributions, they must let managers of residential and nursing care homes know immediately.

They must also let us know straight away - contact details are at the bottom of the page.

Annual review

We will review contributions each year. If a third party contribution increases before the planned annual review, it is vital that the person paying the third party contribution informs us.

What is Cambridgeshire County Council responsible for?

Council staff are responsible for talking through this information fully with you and whoever has agreed to pay a third party contribution. We will record that we have done this and that you and whoever has agreed to pay a third party contribution understood your responsibilities.

If we are contributing to your care costs we have the right to ask about your financial situation. We cannot ask people who are paying third party contributions about their financial situation. However we must ensure they are able to make contributions for as long as people remain living in residential and nursing care homes.

Other care options for people with higher levels of care are:

Contact us

If you have a question or concern about your financial assessment please contact our Financial Assessment Team.

Box No: SCO2205

Room No: 2nd floor
Scott House
5 George Street
PE29 3AD
Telephone: 0300 126 3003

If you have any concerns about your care service, please contact your Key Worker.

If you do not have contact details for a Key Worker, you can contact adult services:

Telephone: 0345 045 5202

8am to 6pm Monday to Friday

9am to 1pm on Saturday