The uptake of a deferred payment scheme for care home residents in Scotland is lagging behind because of high upfront costs and a lack of information at local authorities, research has found.
Deferred Payment Agreements (DPA) give residents the option to delay paying care home fees until after their death. The fees are paid in part by the local authority and the balance is paid from the resident’s estate once they have died.
The scheme was introduced in 2002, under the Community Care and Health (Scotland) Act 2002.
The Scottish government strongly recommended local authorities use the DPA rather than another scheme, Charging Orders.
However, the research found that local authorities were still issuing charging orders because they were low cost, £100 instead of up to £500, straightforward, and could be arranged more quickly than DPA.
Under charging orders, residents avoid paying fees upfront by allowing the local authority to apply for a charging order on the individual’s property; a type of debt recovery.
But the research, commissioned by the Scottish government, found most local authorities did not have “meaningful” information on DPA for residents and their families, and several relatives said they had not been informed of any deferment payment schemes.
Although local authority representatives were knowledgeable on DPA, front-line staff had poor levels of understanding of the scheme.
Misconceptions about DPA were “commonplace” and older people consistently said, during focus groups, that they did not know of any deferment payment scheme for care home fees.
The Scottish government plans to address the issues raised by the research and improve the level of information and advice given to care home residents and their relatives.