Families owe more than £11m in care home bills

Picture: Getty Images/iStockphoto

Families in Essex face paying back millions of pounds for loved ones' care. Stock photo - Credit: Getty Images/iStockphoto

Families in Essex owe councils more than £11million in care home bills – to be paid back by selling their loved ones’ properties.

The number of Deferred Payment Agreements, or DPAs, that are outstanding have nearly tripled in the county.

A DPA is an arrangement where the local authority pays care fees and the individual can delay repaying until they sell their home or when they die.

The Government promised in its 2019 manifesto that nobody needing care should be forced to sell their home to pay for it. Currently, people have to fund their own care if they have over £23,250 worth of assets – unless they qualify for medical care.

The number of DPAs outstanding has nearly tripled in the area controlled by Essex County Council (ECC) from around 95 at the same date in 2019 to 265 in March 2020.

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The amount stands at £11.1million.

A spokesperson for ECC said: “With such a scheme, we expect to see fluctuations in the numbers of DPAs from time to time, and the size of the debt associated with them. The scheme operates in line with the relevant statutory provisions and all debt is secured and regularly monitored to ensure sustainability and repayment.”

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Caroline Abrahams, charity director at Age UK, said: “For many years we have been highlighting the unfairness in expecting individuals to save for their own care and even sell their homes to pay for it.

“We need a national, Government backed scheme instead that we all contribute to throughout our lives and that means decent care will be there for us if we need it in old age.

“Until the Government fulfils the Prime Minister’s promise, too many older people are doomed to go on suffering and seeing their hard-earned savings dwindle away to nothing. This is no way to treat an older population which helped to build the country we see today, some of whom put their lives on their line by fighting for it too."

The Department of Health and Social Care said it is committed to providing the opportunity for people to take up DPAs and where necessary, it considers what can be done to raise awareness and understanding of the deferred payment scheme.

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