Paying for care in Scotland

Written by Zenya Smith16/02/23


Paying for care

Paying for care is a complex subject. Different parts of the UK charge different fees, have their own rules on funding, and even offer some community care services for free. If you’re looking to arrange care in Scotland, we’ve answered the common questions about funding care in this article. 

Do you get free home care in Scotland?

Unfortunately, care is very rarely free. However, the price you pay for care can differ significantly depending on the type of care you choose, and the level of care you need. Different regions may experience a slight difference in price too. 

The average cost of care at home, for example through live-in care agencies and domiciliary care providers can be between £900- £1400 – according to This will likely be more for those needing specialist care, or additional support for a spouse. 

There’s only really one way to guarantee free home care in Scotland, and that’s if you successfully apply for NHS continuing healthcare. This form of funding will cover the costs of any care you need in full, however, you’ll only be eligible if you’re living with a long-term, complex health issue. This means the majority of any care you receive will be devoted to managing needs related to your illness or conditions, and it’s likely your health will get worse without the care. 

Even if you can’t get all your costs covered, there are a number of funding streams and benefits available in Scotland that can help reduce the burden of paying for care. For example, your Local Authority may offer partial funding, or you may get an additional £212.85 for personal care, or £95.80 a week for nursing care through the Government’s free personal care scheme. 

Residential care i.e care in a care home is also unlikely to be completely free but can also be paid for using the funding streams outlined above. However, it’s worth noting that each year councils set a standard rate for care home funding – if you choose a care home where the weekly costs are higher than this standard rate, you’ll need to make up the difference yourself. As of April 2022, this rate has been £719.50 a week. 


Is there a cap on care fees in Scotland?

While there’s currently no ‘official cap on how much you may end up spending on care, there are procedures in place to protect those with less money. In Scotland, if you require care and have less than £20,250 in income, savings, and assets, your local authority will need to help fund your care. 

This will be worked out in a financial assessment – undertaken by a social care professional. 

England is set to introduce a cap on care costs in 2025. This would mean that no person in England will need to pay more than 86,000 towards their care. This roughly equates to a person paying for three years of residential care before their local council steps in to help. While this is an initiative from the UK Government, this cap will unfortunately not apply to Scotland. 

However, there is currently a plan for a Scottish national care service to be in place by 2026. This is likely to reform things like care costs and choice. You can read more about the plans here. 

How much savings are you allowed before you need to pay for care in Scotland? 

The upper limit for savings, assets, and income in Scotland is £32,750 If you have capital above this limit you will not be eligible for council funding.  

People with assets, savings, and income between £32,750 and the lower limit of £20,250  may still be eligible for some financial assistance from the council. However, you’ll be assessed as if you have an extra £1 income a week for every £250 you have over the lower limit of £20,250  This is called tariff income.

For example, if your assets and capital add up to £25,000 – you’ll be assessed with an additional £26 of income a week added to your existing capital assets. 

If you complete your council’s care needs assessment and financial assessment, and are found to be eligible for funding you should be asked if you’d like to receive this as ‘self-directed support‘. 

This method of allocating local authority funding is designed to give people more of a say over their care – making you an equal partner in the big decisions. 

 Councils have a legal duty to offer you four options for arranging your care – 

  • Option 1 – you receive your funding via a direct payment to your preferred bank account and purchase your own support
  • Option 2 – you inform your council which type of support or specific provider you’d like, and they make the arrangements for you. 
  • Option 3 – your local council arranges the support
  • Option 4 – a bespoke mix of the above options. 


Which care option offers the best value? 

There is no universal answer to this question, unfortunately – it will usually come down to your personal preferences and situation. Ideally, quality of life should be prioritised over cost, however, this isn’t always possible. 

It’s important to do your research into the benefits and limitations of different care types, and compare the packages offered by different care providers. For example, some home care providers may charge extra on bank holidays, or if a live-in carer is woken in the night for an emergency. 

Residential homes come with additional cost considerations too – accommodation costs and daily living costs such as your weekly food budget and housekeeping fees will make up your overall weekly fee. 

It’s also important to research whether some care types are better suited to self-funders. According to BBC Scotland, research showed self-funding care home residents paid on average 40% more in 2022 than those who were publicly funded – compared to 24% a decade ago.


Do I need to sell my house to pay for care in Scotland?

If you have decided residential care is the best fit for your situation, and your council believes you have enough income, assets, or savings to cover your care home costs, you may need to use your home to pay for it. 

There are a few ways to do this. The first and most obvious is to sell. However, this can take time and isn’t ideal if your care needs are urgent. In this scenario, your council may initiate the 12-week disregard scheme – meaning your property value will be disregarded for your first 12 weeks in care, and the council will pay a higher proportion of your fees during this period. 

If you wish to hold on to your property, you may be suited to an equity release scheme or care fee annuity payments. These are complex financial products. They essentially loan you money using your home as insurance and claim back the money after you die by selling your property. If you are considering either, it’s crucial that you seek independent financial advice from an organisation like SOLLA, or legal advice if you are a loved one’s Power of Attorney. 

However, there are instances where your home will be protected. Your council cannot include the value of your home as an asset if a partner or relative over the age of 60, who is incapacitated still lives there. If a family member has moved into your property to care for you – giving up their own home, then the council may also choose to disregard the value of your property. 

Finally, if you wish to be cared for in your own home, your property cannot be included in any financial assessment, as it will become your care setting. 


Who qualifies for free personal care in Scotland?

Since 2002, everyone in Scotland over the age of 65 has been entitled to free personal care if they are assessed as requiring it by their local social work department. 

 Those who are eligible can receive a flat rate payment of £233.10 for personal care per week. If you’re living in your own home you’ll be given the choice of how you’d like to spend the money. Your local council will likely provide information, advice, and a few suggestions for care providers / professional carers. 

However, if you’re receiving self-directed support, you’ll usually have the option to receive this money as a direct payment and make your own personal care arrangements. This means you can choose a provider outside of your local council’s suggestions. Alternatively, if you don’t want to handle the money side of things, you can inform the council of your preferred provider and have them make arrangements with them on your behalf. 

If you’re living in a care home, your local council will put a contract in place directly with your care home provider. 


But what does personal care actually mean?

You may come across a few different definitions of ‘personal care’ – different UK governing bodies may have their own unique interpretations – which can mean understanding what type of care you’re getting for free is tricky. Ultimately, The Community Care and Health (Scotland) Act 2002 states your local authority cannot charge you for the following care –

  • Personal hygiene tasks – such as washing, toileting and continence management, haircare, and oral hygiene.
  • Support at mealtimes – such as preparing nutritious meals and supporting hydration
  • Prompting and administering certain medications
  • Help with immobility problems


Your personal care allowance will not cover –

  •  Housework and laundry
  • shopping and running errands
  • Support outside the home, such as attending social events or day centres.


Is this different from funded nursing care (FNC)?

Yes. FNC is a funding stream provided to people in England and Wales by the NHS to cover the cost of nursing care services. It is not means-tested and is available to both self-funders and those receiving care funding from their local council. However, it is usually only provided to people living in care homes. 

In Scotland, additional nursing care funding comes from your local council. If you’re assessed as needing it they’ll pay an additional £95.80 of funding directly to your care home. 

Nursing care relates to specific care tasks that can only be carried out by a qualified nurse or health professional. 


What benefits can I get in Scotland to help pay for care? 

If you’re receiving care at home, you may be eligible for state benefits, such as disability living allowance, attendance allowance, and pension credits. You’ll usually qualify for support financial support with energy bills and council tax too. 

Residents in care homes can still claim a handful of these state benefits too which can ease the cost of care. However because you’re no longer living at home, you won’t be able to claim anything towards household bills, such as a council tax reduction.  


For further care information, it may be helpful to do the following – 

1. Speak to Elder’s Care Experts – we can help you understand what steps to take next in your funding journey, and connect you to local impartial advocates for personal advice. 


2. Speak to an independent adviser – If you’re unclear on your rights, are confused about terminology, or simply feel overwhelmed, we recommend contacting  SOLLA for support. 

3. Speak to your local council – they’ll help you get started on your care needs assessment, which is the first step in arranging social care. You can find contact information here – or we’ve listed some councils below. 

Learn more about paying for care

We know your money matters. Take a look at more Elder guides on care costs and funding below. 

Information & advice

Our phone lines are closed right now

Opening hours:

Monday 9am – 7pm
Tuesday 9am – 7pm
Wednesday 9am – 7pm
Thursday 9am – 7pm
Friday 9am – 7pm
Saturday 9am – 5pm
Sunday 9am – 5pm