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The Royal College of Psychiatrists Improving the lives of people with mental illness

Carers' Assets

Bernard Hart, retired IT Consultant and Magistrate
Member of the Royal College of Psychiatrists Carers Forum

5 August 2015

Losing a carer

 

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 incapacity?”

 

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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Comments

Re: Carers' Assets
Thank you Bernard for making these "sensitive and important" points. I am in absolute agreement - feel we need to be looking much closer at the "Legal Rights" of Carers and those they care for (A 21st Century Public Charter of Rights) springs to mind?
*It is very true "we live it to learn it"
I also agree with your comments around the bureaucratic Public Guardian seen as more political than person centred.
certainly not seen as "Person Centred"
Re: Carers' Assets
Well done Bernard your blog is excellent and very relevant to me as an older carer. I hope it stimulates debate and positive action from decision makers.
Re: Carers' Assets
Bernard you blog is excellent and both vitally important because it raises very sensitive concerns that a lot of carers live with on a daily basis. I hope that your blog will be the start of positive changes. Well Done Bernard
Re: Carers' Assets
Hi Bernard

Well done! Am impressed with your blog....keep them coming - we can all (I certainly can) learn from your efforts!

Your blog certainly gives the public perspective versus the 21st Century impersonal, political resource - missing some strategic investment "IN THE BEST INTEREST" maybe?

How true is the saying "We live it to learn it" and therefore the NEED for more co-production and equality working with relevant stakeholders around the needs of the family, carers, patients & vulnerable?

How do you feel about us taking this very relevant & Nationally important issue - to the College's Policy Dept for some further observations and/or some clarity?

Again, Congratulations Sir.

All good wishes
Evelyn
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  Bernard Hart
 

Bernard Hart is a carer of a 47 year old son with both mental illness and autism, and is a member of the RCPsych Carers Forum. He is 72 years old, a retired IT Consultant and Magistrate, who has been an avid campaigner for improved mental health and autism services since the mid-1980's, particularly in the London Borough of Harrow

If you would like to contribute to the Blog Zone series, please email an outline of your blog to: Julia.burnside@rcpsych.ac.uk