How many people fund their own care?

Some people complained last Saturday that I produced no blog, my blogs get done early in the morning and on Saturday I’m travelling early to my boat. So I need oven ready content and my good friend Con Keating served up this meaty chicken on Friday night!

Con’s comment when directing me to this ONS blog was “care funding is going to get ever more confused with pensions“. He reminded me that it was a little late for me to have six sprogs to care for me in my latter days. Maybe I should ring-fence my tax-free cash.

The blog below was first published by the Office of National Statistics 

Many people pay for their care in residential homes. Despite this there are no official estimates of the number of self-funders within the UK. Here Dr Sophie John, Head of Social Care Analysis at the ONS, sets out what we have been able to find out so far, and next steps to providing more understanding of who is funding their own care.

Today, ONS have made first steps towards being able to estimate the number of people who self-fund their care in care homes in England.  Between 2019 and 2020, approximately 36.7% are care home residents self-funded their care. The Social Care Analysis team have produced estimates of the number of people who self-fund their care in care homes in England, with geographic and care home characteristic breakdowns provided.

Main points

  • Between 2019 and 2020, 84.7% (391,927 of 462,460) of care home beds were occupied in England, and there were approximately 143,774 (36.7%) self-funded care home residents, compared with 248,153 (63.3%) state-funded care home residents.
  • The South East had the highest proportion of self-funders (45.4%) compared with the North East, which had the lowest (24.6%).
  • Care homes located in the least deprived areas had a statistically significantly higher proportion of self-funders (53.8%) than care homes in the most deprived areas (21.6%).
  • Smaller care homes, with 1 to 19 beds, had the lowest proportion of self-funders (15.1%), which is statistically significantly lower than all other care home sizes.
  • Care homes providing care for older people had the highest proportion of self-funders (49.6%); this was statistically significantly higher than care homes providing care for younger adults which had the lowest proportion of self-funders (4.8%).


A self-funder is typically an individual who organises or funds their care in residential or community settings, as opposed to receiving financial support from the local authority or another third party.

Last year the Office for Statistics Regulation (OSR) published papers outlining gaps in evidence in social care across the four nations of the UK. Their research highlighted that not enough is known regarding the volume and value of privately funded provision of adult social care.

There is limited understanding of the size and characteristics of the self-funder population and the care they receive. There is very limited data collected on this group to help, which makes it difficult to estimate the size of the population. This leaves a significant gap in understanding how care is funded and the impact on the adult social care sector.

In 2019, the Care Quality Commission (CQC) began to collect information on funding of service users. Following on from our previous blog post entitled “Social care: Estimating the size of the self-funding population” and using the CQC data we have estimated the number of people who self-fund their care in England. This was released today alongside accompanying quality information outlining the methods employed.

This is a first step to address this evidence gap to support government funding and reform to understand vital information about this population.

What’s next?

Whilst this is a good starting point, this work can pose more questions than answers such as;

  • How many people self-fund their care in the community? 
  • How many people self-fund in Wales, Scotland or Northern Ireland? 
  • Who are self-funders? 

These are all questions we hope to continue to explore either ourselves, or to support others to answer.

The experimental release is the first step in a large programme of work for the Social Care Analysis Team at ONS. We have split the work into three phases;

  1. The first phase was released today; providing initial information on the number of people who self-fund their care in care homes in England, with geographic and care home information provided. In future work, we hope to provide similar estimations for those who self-fund their care in the community.
  2. The second phase involves using data linkage techniques and data assets available at ONS to provide more information on who the self-funder population are by exploring characteristic information such as age, sex, disability, education, home ownership and marital status using the 2021 Census.
  3. The third phase involves continuing to work with experts in this area to support further exploration of this population across the four nations and how data can potentially help to make predictions for the number of self-funders in the future.

We have developed this work with support from an advisory group of experts across government, academia and charities and would welcome further feedback.  This is a first iteration to estimate the number of people who self-fund their care, we will be producing improvements and updates to this method based on feedback received.

Dr Sophie John, Head of Social Care Analysis at ONS

About henry tapper

Founder of the Pension PlayPen,, partner of Stella, father of Olly . I am the Pension Plowman
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1 Response to How many people fund their own care?

  1. Tim Simpson says:

    Hello Henry,
    How many people fund their own care?

    Anecdotal as this is, Dr Sophie John has it right at ‘What’s next?’ ‘…this work can pose more questions than answers…’
    Looking at all the diagrams, it begs the question of: How many residents started off as self-funding and then ran out of cash? At that point, what would the arrangments be then?

    In my mother’s case, she self-funded for frailty for three years. However at the outset the local Council were quite clear that there were only certain Homes in their Borough where they would continue to pay when her funds expired. In all fairness they were very reasonable about it all, possibly because I kept in touch with them frequently and tried to be helpful. She died in 2010, so I doubt that the situation is the same now.

    Given the current crises with the power sources, Homes that require 24/7 heating etc. will undoubtably need an increase in their fees if it continues for a while. So I wonder if we are any nearer yet to getting figures to budget on for, say, five years in frailty care and/or dementia care (posibly double), or any type of care that is outside of the NHS facilities.

    Kind regards,
    Tim Simpson

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