Social care - how the system works

  • Who needs social care?

    There are 10 million over-65s in the United Kingdom - 1.5 million of those are over 85 - and the figures are expected to rise in the coming years. Research suggests about three-quarters of elderly people will develop a social care need, which can include anything from help getting up in the morning to round-the-clock support in a residential home. The numbers of younger, disabled adults are predicted to rise too, as medical advances mean many people with disabilities are living longer.

    Number of people over 65

    • 19858.5m
    • 201010.6m
    • 203516.1m

    Number of disabled people (18-64)

    • 20103.1m
    • 20303.4m
  • Who gets state-funded care?

    Who is eligible for care?

    Social care in England is rationed, depending on how much care a person needs and how much money they have. Individuals are first assessed on care needs. There are four basic levels or bands of care offered - low, moderate, substantial and critical - but levels vary between councils. The bands cover daily tasks such as washing, dressing and eating.
    Help with eating/washing
    Care through the day
    Many councils can no longer afford to give care to people in the low and moderate bands - they will only fund people needing high levels of care.
    In 2005/6 60 councils funded people with low and moderate needs, now only 28 councils will fund people in these categories, meaning fewer people receiving care.

    Who gets funded care at home?

    The second test is a means or financial assessment. People needing help at home have to pay for their own care if they have savings of more than £23,250. When a person needs full-time residential care, the value of their home may also be taken into account.
    Savings and capital£14,250£23,250 Only income taken into account Care costs shared No care paid for
    The various payment thresholds have barely changed over the years. Critics argue there should be a cap on payments.

    Who gets funded care in a residential home?

    The value of a person's home is included in the financial assessment if they need residential care, unless their partner is continuing to live at the property. Every year thousands of people have to sell their homes to help pay for their care.
    460,000 places in care homes in the UK less than 50% are state-funded places
  • How much does it cost?

    English councils are having to care for growing numbers of elderly and disabled people with a shrinking pot of money. In recent years the amount councils spend has failed to keep pace with inflation, and the number receiving care has decreased. In fact, the data shows the number of elderly being cared for has fallen by a fifth since 2005 and the number of younger disabled adults receiving care has also dropped slightly.

    Number of over 65s receiving care

    • 2005-61,231,000
    • 2010-111,064,000

    Annual cost to the state: £9.4bn (2010-11)

    Number 18-64 receiving care

    • 2005-6518,000
    • 2010-11510,000

    Annual cost to the state: £7.1bn (2010-11)

  • Who pays for care?

    The assessment process means many more people end up having to pay for their own care or go without. With demands growing and funding being squeezed, councils are warning that maintaining current standards is going to get tougher in coming years.

    Over 65s

    500,000pay for their own care
    800,000go without or rely on friends and family
    Average lifetime cost: £30,000
    One in 10 will have to pay: £100,000


    1 million relying on informal care at home
    1 in 6Carers give up work or reduce their hours
    Cost to economy estimated at £1.3bn
    2/5 of carers say they put off medical treatment because of their caring responsibilities

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