Independent financial advice
Whenever anyone contacts a council about their care and support needs, the Care Act says they must have measures in place to help them spot anyone who might be in need of financial information and advice. Councils then have to help them get this advice from an independent source.
Financial information and advice includes lots of different services which aim to help people plan, prepare and pay for their care costs.
It is important under the Care Act that people are able to find ‘independent’ financial information or advice. This means it must be separate from the council.
In all circumstances where you need to financially contribute to your care and support needs you should always seek independent financial advice. You must make sure your money goes as far as possible and you can plan and make choices for the future.
What’s the difference between independent financial advice and regulated financial advice?
An independent financial advice service will discuss your personal and financial circumstances with you. They will help you understand if you will have to pay for your care or whether you might be able to get full, or part funding, from the council. If you have to pay for your care, they will tell what kind of advice you might need and suggest a range of independent financial advisors.
These services should be offered free of charge and should be independent of any financial products or services available to pay for your care.
Regulated financial advice can only be given by organisations which are authorised to do so by the Financial Conduct Authority (FCA). These advisors are able to recommend particular products and services to help you pay for your care and will charge for their advice. There are independent financial advisers which focus specifically on care funding advice. They are often referred to as specialist care-fees advisers. They are regulated by the FCA, and must stick to a code of conduct and ethics and take responsibility for the suitability of any product they recommend.
They will take time to understand your needs and circumstances and then recommend products which suit your needs.
When choosing a specialist care fees advisor you should look for the following things:
- Care fees planning advice must only be provided by an experienced care fees specialist who:
- is authorised by the FCA
- is a full member of the Society of Later Life Advisers
- will offer an initial consultation telephone or face to face consultation without charging you.
Preference should be given to care fees specialist advisers who:
- have an independent rather than restricted status (as defined by the FCA)
- charge clients on a direct billing basis rather than through a product charge
- where care legal advice is required, individuals must only be referred to a member of Solicitors for the Elderly
How much does specialist care fees advice cost?
The fees of an independent financial adviser can vary widely depending on where you live, the complexity of your situation, and the level of advice and types of products they recommend.
In some cases you could pay between £75 and £250 an hour for their services, so it’s important to make sure you ask up-front how much their advice is going to cost, and whether it’s a fixed fee, or based on the time they spend working for you.
What about benefits?
You should also check you are receiving the correct welfare benefit entitlements. These can help you pay for your care and support.
How do I find an independent financial adviser?
Staffordshire Connects lists a number of advisers and organisations that can offer independent financial advice.
Which one is right for me?
There are lots of independent financial advisers out there. It may seem difficult to work out who is right for you. Make sure you use someone who is registered with the financial conduct authority.
You should also consider:
Society of Later Life advisers (SOLLA)
Financial advisers registered with the society go through a special training and accreditation process. They are specialists in planning ahead for later life even if you’re still young.
Specialist care fee advisers
Independent financial advice covers lots of different areas. An adviser who specialises in care fees may understand more about the situation you’re in.
They will be able to offer more tailored advice. Most financial advisers will state if they have any specialist areas of knowledge. You can check this with SOLLA as well.
Organisations that can also help
- Money Advice Service was set up by government. They offer free and impartial money advice:
Phone: 0300 500 5000 (Monday to Friday 8am to 8pm, Saturday 9am to 1pm).
- FirstStop Advice is an independent, impartial and free service. It is provided by the national charity Elderly Accommodation Counsel (EAC).
Phone: 0800 377 7070
- Citizens Advice provides information about getting financial advice and where to find an adviser.
- Age UK provide information about claiming benefits. They can give you advice on debts, a pension calculator, money-saving tips and information on making a will and power of attorney.
- Paying for care - provides access to a care cap calculator to help you work out residential care costs.
What if I’m not happy with advice I receive?
If you take advice and later find that the product wasn’t suitable for your needs you could have a case for miss-selling and receive compensation.
Every specialist care-fees adviser will have a formal complaints procedure, but ultimately you also have the right to make a complaint to the Financial Ombudsman Service or call 0800 023 4567 or 0300 123 9123.