Bernard Hart, retired IT Consultant and Magistrate
Member of the Royal College of Psychiatrists Carers Forum
5 August 2015
Guardianship has been a subject the British government has
wrestled with for many years and, as far as I know, found no
satisfactory solution. The key issue for me is: “What happens to a
person with reduced capacity when their primary carer or carers
is/are no longer able to care for them either through death or
Photograph by Örjan Lindén
There is one school of thought that says the government then has
a responsibility for the health and wellbeing of that person.
Unfortunately, there is little or no evidence of the government
assuming that responsibility under current legislation or
guidelines. It is, therefore, left to the carer(s) prior to their
incapacitation to make whatever arrangements they can for the
welfare of the person they care for. Okay, so you make a will with
your cared-for as beneficiary. You may set up a trust with trustees
you appoint to administer it to the benefit of your cared-for.
Great! All things being equal, this will probably work if you’ve
appointed the right trustees; people you trust to work in the best
interests of your loved one.
Now, what happens if you, the carer, become disabled. You’ve
accumulated a small amount of money that you hope to leave to your
cared-for when you’re no longer around. Money that is intended to
help him or her with necessities and maybe the odd luxury when
you’re no longer able to. Unfortunately, if your savings exceed the
relatively minimal amount the government allows, you’ll have to pay
for any help you get from statutory agencies such as help with
bathing, dressing, keeping your home clean, and this can amount to
a tidy sum. Depending on how long you need that help – in many
cases, indefinitely or for many years – it will take most, if not
all, of your hard earned savings, the money you’ve worked hard to
put aside for the long term welfare of your cared-for. Everyone
with more than £23,250 has to pay for support. Below that
threshold, they contribute to the cost - with the amount paid based
on means-testing of both savings and income. Those with savings and
capital of between £14,250 and £23,250 have those assets taken into
account when their contribution is assessed. Below £14,250, only a
person's income is considered.
Of course, there are ways round this, like transferring your
savings to your loved ones before you become incapacitated, but
that not only pre-supposes that you will have some time to plan,
but it is also, to say the least, a risky option for many. For one
thing it can leave you without personal resources and your savings
could disappear very quickly if put into the care of somebody who
has little or no experience of managing money for the longer term.
I won’t mention death duties here as this only becomes relevant if
you have a significant amount of money to leave behind.
It has been pointed out to me that The Office of The Public
Guardian does have responsibility for supervising the affairs of
those who do not have the capacity to manage them themselves.
However, if you check the Government’s website in this regard,
you’ll note that it's all very bureaucratic and impersonal. Not a
route I’d be keen to take.
Our current crop of politicians has been waxing lyrical about
the need to support carers for some years now, while at the same
time reducing the amount of money available for their support. I
think it's time we started putting some pressure on legislators to
significantly increase the threshold at which carers become liable
for the cost of their own care and support.
Authored by Bernard Hart.
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