The Ombudsman's final decision:
Summary: Miss X complains the Council failed to deal properly with charges for her father’s care in 2014 and waited until 2019 to pursue them, despite complaining about them in 2014. The Council has offered to waive the charges and apologise to the family. We will discontinue the investigation as there is nothing more we can achieve.
- The complainant, whom I shall refer to as Miss X, complains the Council failed to deal properly with charges for her father’s care in 2014 and waited until 2019 to pursue them, despite complaining about them in 2014.
The Ombudsman’s role and powers
- We investigate complaints about ‘maladministration’ and ‘service failure’. In this statement, I have used the word fault to refer to these. We must also consider whether any fault has had an adverse impact on the person making the complaint. I refer to this as ‘injustice’. If there has been fault which has caused an injustice, we may suggest a remedy. (Local Government Act 1974, sections 26(1) and 26A(1), as amended)
- We can decide whether to start or discontinue an investigation into a complaint within our jurisdiction. (Local Government Act 1974, sections 24A(6) and 34B(8), as amended)
How I considered this complaint
- I have:
- considered the complaint and the documents provided by Miss X;
- discussed the complaint with Miss X;
- considered the comments and documents the Council has provided in response to my enquiries; and
- shared a draft of this statement with Miss X and the Council, and invited comments for me to consider before making my final decision.
What I found
- Miss X’s father, Mr Y, went into hospital after his wife died in December 2013. When he returned home in March 2014 the Council arranged for carers to visit. They continued to visit until 18 May 2014.
- Miss X complained to the Council after Mr Y received two invoices for his care in June 2014. The Council replied to this and further complaints from Miss X on 30 July, 8 September and 11 December 2014, when it told Miss X she could complain to the Ombudsman. On 5 March 2015 the Council told Miss X it had heard nothing from the Ombudsman and, if it did not do so by 20 March 2015, it would assume the matter was not subject to further enquiry.
- Miss X heard nothing further from the Council until 3 July 2019, when it sent an invoice for the outstanding care charges (£462.75). Miss X complained again.
- When the Council replied in August, it said:
- it accepted it had delayed in pursuing the outstanding charges;
- it had recently put resources into pursuing aged debt and reducing delays in the future;
- there was no time-bar on the unpaid invoices; and
- suggested Miss X take legal advice if she wanted to dispute liability.
- The Council has agreed to waive the outstanding charges and apologise to Mr Y’s family for not pursuing them more quickly.
- I have discontinued the investigation as there is nothing more we can achieve by investigating it further.
Investigator's decision on behalf of the Ombudsman