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Warwickshire County Council (19 012 874)

Category : Adult care services > Charging

Decision : Upheld

Decision date : 31 Mar 2020

The Ombudsman's final decision:

Summary: the Council has written off a care home charge for Mr X’s mother’s short stay in a residential care home. This is a satisfactory remedy and the Ombudsman has therefore ended the investigation of Mr X’s complaint.

The complaint

  1. Mr X made this complaint on his behalf of his elderly father, Mr Y. Mr X has power of attorney to manage his father's financial affairs.
  2. Mr X complains that a social worker misled him about charges for his mother’s short-term stay in a residential care home. The Council sent him an invoice shortly after his mother passed away for a contribution to the cost of her stay in the care home. This happened despite the social worker giving him an assurance before the placement started that his mother was entitled to free care for the first six weeks.
  3. Mr X wants the Council to write off the charge.

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The Ombudsman’s role and powers

  1. We may investigate complaints made on behalf of someone else if they have given their consent. (Local Government Act 1974, section 26A(1), as amended)
  2. 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)

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How I considered this complaint

  1. I have spoken to Mr X and obtained some information from the Council.
  2. I gave the Council and Mr X the opportunity to comment on my draft decision.

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What I found

  1. Mr X’s elderly mother, Mrs Y, was admitted to hospital in January 2019 after sustaining severe injuries following a fall at home. She suffered extensive bruising and had an open wound on her leg. Mrs Y had dementia.
  2. Following medical treatment, Mrs Y was not fit to return home. On 27 February 2019 Mr X and his wife met a social worker, while his mother was still in hospital, to discuss arrangements for her care after she was discharged. Mr X made notes during the meeting.
  3. The social worker discussed Mrs Y’s need for a short-term placement in a residential care home because she would not be able to manage at home. Mr X says the social worker gave him a clear assurance there would be no charge for the first six weeks of the stay in the care home. She told him the cost would be met by the NHS. Mr X says the social worker told him there would be a further assessment of Mrs Y’s needs in that six week period.
  4. Mr X and other family members visited several residential care homes. They found a suitable home and Mrs Y moved there on 11 March. The social worker arranged to meet Mr X again on 17 April to review Mrs Y’s progress and future needs.
  5. Sadly, Mrs Y’s health deteriorated and she passed away on 5 April in the care home.
  6. Five days later, Mr X received an invoice from the Council. It asked him to pay £412.79 towards the care home charges incurred between 11 March and 5 April. Mr X contacted the Finance team to query the invoice. He was advised to speak to the social worker.
  7. The social worker told Mr X she would make enquiries and contact him again. Mr X says she called him back later that day to say there would be no charge and he would receive a new invoice with a nil balance.
  8. About one week later, the social worker called Mr X again. She said she needed to make further enquiries about the invoice and would get back to him. Mr X says he did not hear from the social worker again.
  9. Mr X later received an amended invoice for £104.15. The Council says the original financial assessment was based on the assumption that Mrs Y would have applied for Pension Credit. However Mrs Y passed away before she could apply for this benefit. So it then adjusted the assessment and issued an invoice for a reduced charge.
  10. Mr X initially sent the Council a cheque but, after seeking advice, he stopped the cheque. He complained to the Council in May 2019. He said the social worker had clearly stated there would be no charge for the first six weeks of his mother’s stay. He had taken notes in the February meeting so he could brief other family members. He said the social worker had repeated this information when he spoke to her on 10 April, after he received the first invoice, but she later backtracked.
  11. A senior manager in the Adult Social Care service replied in June 2019. He did not uphold Mr X’s complaint. He said he had reviewed the case records and spoken to the social worker. He was satisfied the social worker had explained the financial implications of the placement with Mr X and given him a finance pack in the February meeting.
  12. Mr X was not satisfied with the Council’s response so he contacted the Ombudsman.
  13. When we informed the Council of our decision to investigate Mr X’s complaint, it told us it had written off the charge of £104.15 on 20 January 2020. Mr X says the Council did not inform him at the time.
  14. The Council has now written to Mr X to confirm the write-off and the nil balance on the account. Mr X considers this is a satisfactory remedy.

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Final decision

  1. I have ended the investigation because the Council has resolved the outstanding issue and Mr X is satisfied with the outcome. No further investigation is necessary.

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Investigator's decision on behalf of the Ombudsman

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