Authority may have strong case
A LEADING solicitor today believes Suffolk County Council could have a strong case in its bid to sue a widow to pay for her nursing care.David Day, a partner with Ipswich based Gotelee and Goldsmith, said if the authority could prove that the family intended to avoid paying for Emily Youngman's care, then it would probably succeed.
A LEADING solicitor today believes Suffolk County Council could have a strong case in its bid to sue a widow to pay for her nursing care.
David Day, a partner with Ipswich based Gotelee and Goldsmith, said if the authority could prove that the family intended to avoid paying for Emily Youngman's care, then it would probably succeed.
He said many elderly people were worried that they would not be able to pass on their homes to their families and solicitors were getting an increasing number of inquiries over how to avoid selling their home to pay for care.
"It's a huge issue and we are doing more and more work in this area," said Mr Day, who is based at the firm's Hadleigh office.
"There is a tremendous amount of pride among the elderly, that they have worked hard and built something up and want to have it to hand on to their children and their families.
"But with the emphasis now on the councils having to fund care, that is no longer realistic. From the councils' point of view, they have to find the money for care – funds are short and care is expensive."
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He said if Suffolk County Council could prove in the High Court that assets – in this case Mrs Youngman's house – had been transferred with the intention to avoid paying for her care, it would probably succeed.
Meanwhile officials from County Hall and campaigning charity Age Concern today also insisted that the rules on transferring assets were clear.
And they hoped the publicity surrounding the Youngman case would encourage families to take the issue into consideration while thinking about residential care.
"The law is quite clear on this," said a spokesman for Suffolk County Council.
"Assets over £18,500 are taken into consideration when the costs of residential care are calculated. That's a government decision. They had the chance to change during a review a few years ago and they chose not to do so," he said.
Daphne Savage from Age Concern said there were firm rules on what could be considered when the costs of residential care were calculated.
"It is a very important issue, one of many that needs to be considered when thinking about moving into residential care," she added.
Suffolk's director of social care, Anthony Douglas, said the authority regretted turning to the law and described it as "a last resort".
"Under the law, we are obliged to assess every person we fund in a residential care home, to see if they have the resources to pay for their accommodation," he said.
"Typically, a person being funded in residential care who owns a property has the value of that property counted as an asset, and is charged.
"That person may, in some cases, have to consider selling their home to pay the costs.
"Social care departments would not normally count a home as an asset if there is a spouse or dependent child living there," said Mr Douglas.
"In cases where a person sells or transfers their home before going into residential care, and the council has evidence that this was done for the main purpose of avoiding having to pay for some or all of the cost of their care, then the council can still take the value of the property into consideration when determining the resident's resources."