Thurrock Council (18 019 831)

Category : Adult care services > Charging

Decision : Upheld

Decision date : 20 Nov 2019

The Ombudsman's final decision:

Summary: The Council was at fault as it did not include Disability Related Expenditure when calculating care charges and did not review it regularly. The Council’s recalculation of the DRE and refund of the excess charges, remedies the financial injustice caused.

The complaint

  1. The complainant, whom I shall refer to as Mrs B, is represented by Mr C. Mr C complains the Council has not backdated all Disability Related Expenditure and refunded any money owed to Mrs B from 2013.
  2. Mr C also complains the Council failed to ensure that her increasing care needs and costs were not reflected in the Disability Related Expenditure allowance since 2013.

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The Ombudsman’s role and powers

  1. We investigate complaints of injustice caused by ‘maladministration’ and ‘service failure’. I have used the word ‘fault’ to refer to these. We cannot question whether a council’s decision is right or wrong simply because the complainant disagrees with it. We must consider whether there was fault in the way the decision was reached. (Local Government Act 1974, section 34(3), as amended)
  2. If we are satisfied with a council’s actions or proposed actions, we can complete our investigation and issue a decision statement. (Local Government Act 1974, section 30(1B) and 34H(i), as amended)

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How I considered this complaint

  1. I read the papers sent by Mr C and discussed the complaint with him.
  2. I considered the Council's comments about the complaint and any supporting documents it provided.
  3. I gave the Council and Mr C the opportunity to comment on my draft decision.

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What I found

Key facts

  1. In 2013 Mrs B received 1.5 hours of care in her home. The financial assessment of June 2013 noted that she had disability related expenses of £43 per week for shopping, gardening, house and window cleaner and chiropody.
  2. The Council wrote to Mrs B on 24 October 2013 after it carried out a financial assessment. This decided that she should pay £22 a week towards her care but the Council did not include the disability related expenditure.
  3. Mrs B’s care increased to 3.5 hours per week in March 2015, to 5.25 hours in July 2015 and to 10.5 hours in October 2017.
  4. Mr C took over management of Mrs B’s finances in 2018. The Council agreed with him that it had not included the DRE on any of the previous financial assessments from 2013 onwards. A refund of £4197 was made to Mrs B on 21 June 2019.
  5. The Council recalculated the DRE as £88 and Mrs C’s contribution towards her care was £7 per week in August 2018. The DRE was calculated from the previous expenses, plus the cost of glasses, extra washing and personal hygiene products.

My analysis

  1. The Council was at fault as it failed to include Mrs B’s DRE from June 2013. The Council has accepted it was at fault and refunded some additional charges Mrs B paid.
  2. Mr C is not satisfied with the response. Mr C complains:
    • That he is not sure the £4197 refund given is sufficient.
    • That Mrs B may have had additional DRE between 2013 and 2018, the Council has not refunded Mrs B for.
  3. In response to my further enquiries, the Council has explained how it calculated the £4197 refund and I cannot see any error in the calculations. The Council has also increased the refund to £8071 in total. The extra £3874 refund is from the Council increasing the DRE in line with Mrs B’s increasing care needs over the years. Clearly there is no way to know exactly what would have happened if the financial assessments had been carried out in person at the time, but I consider the Council’s proposal is reasonable in the circumstances.
  4. Mr C says he wants the Mrs B’s DRE entitlement to be backdated at a level commensurate with her care needs. I consider that increases in the DRE the Council has agreed to are reasonable. I do appreciate that this is an estimation, but in the circumstances, I consider it a reasonable one.
  5. Mr C has explained the Council is planning to carry out a new financial assessment for Mrs B.

Agreed action

  1. The Council refunds the additional £3874 to Mrs B, making a total of £8071 within one month of the date of the decision on this complaint.
  2. The Council ensures that it completes a new financial assessment for Mrs B within two months of the date of the decision on this complaint.

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Final decision

  1. I have completed my investigation of the complaint. This complaint is upheld. There was fault by the Council which caused injustice. I am satisfied the remedy above remedies this injustice.

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Investigator's decision on behalf of the Ombudsman

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