Council avoids paying £1.3million care bill for people ‘depriving themselves’ of assets

North Somerset Council has used the power 64 times in the past five years.

North Somerset Council has used the power 64 times in the past five years. - Credit: Getty Images/iStockphoto

More than £1million pounds has been saved by North Somerset Council charging people who ‘deliberately deprived’ themselves of assets to receive state-funded care.

The council has avoided shelling out £1.3million for people who have deliberately gifted cash, spent money out of character or handed over the keys to a property to family in an attempt to dodge care costs.

A spokesman said people ‘cannot expect North Somerset to fund their care if they have deliberately deprived themselves’ of assets.

The council can perform a means test under the Care Act to see how much it can charge people for care. Under this power, the council investigates if any deliberate deprivation has taken place.

People are required to fund their own care if their assets are worth more than £23,250, but the state helps cover the cost if the value is below this threshold – perhaps incentivising people to give away their assets.

If someone is found to have deliberately reduced their assets and are set to underpay, the council can charge them more to ensure they pay the correct amount.

The council has used this power 64 times in the past five years.

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A spokesman said: “People are free to spend their income or capital as they wish but they cannot then expect the local authority to fund their care if they have deliberately deprived themselves.”

An investigation by The Telegraph found from a small sample of local authorities, North Somerset has used the power much more than others.

But the spokesman emphasised it is not a money-making scheme, and is essential to ensuring fairness.

They added: “It is not necessarily true that we use this power more than other authorities, possibly we have been better at recording the deprivation findings.

“The charging policy is applied fairly and those who should pay for their care do pay and other citizens should not be penalised.

“It’s important to understand that we have not scooped back £1.3million. That amount has been included in our assessments and increased the amount we charge service users.

“Sometimes this will mean they have to pay the full cost of their care, other times it will increase the amount they are assessed to pay but they will still receive some assistance from us. This is important to the overall affordability of the care system.”