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North Yorkshire County Council (21 008 958)

Category : Adult care services > Charging

Decision : Not upheld

Decision date : 04 Apr 2022

The Ombudsman's final decision:

Summary: Mrs X complains the Council failed to deal properly with the charges for her father’s care, resulting in him being sent a bill for backdated charges which he was not expecting. There has been no fault by the Council.

The complaint

  1. The complainant, whom I shall refer to as Mrs X, complains the Council failed to deal properly with the charges for her father’s care, resulting in him being sent a bill for backdated charges which he was not expecting.

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The Ombudsman’s role and powers

  1. 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)
  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, sections 30(1B) and 34H(i), as amended)

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How I considered this complaint

  1. I have:
    • considered the complaint and the documents provided by Mrs X;
    • discussed the complaint with Mrs X;
    • considered the comments and documents the Council has provided in response to my enquiries; and
    • invited comments on a draft of this statement from Mrs X and the Council, for me to consider before making my final decision.

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What I found

What happened

  1. Mrs X’s father, Mr Y, went into hospital in the summer of 2020 for bowel cancer surgery. While in hospital he was seen by the Psychiatric Team, which raised no concerns about his mental capacity. He received antibiotics for delirium or a potential urinary tract infection. He also tested positive for COVID-19. The Council’s assessment says another daughter, Mrs W, did online shopping for her parents.
  2. Mr Y stayed in hospital until mid-July. The Council arranged a package of care (four calls a day totalling 1 ¼ hours) so he could return to his assisted living accommodation with his wife, who had her own package of care. The NHS funded Mr Y’s care using money provided by the Government to avoid delays in discharging people from hospital during the COVID-19 pandemic.
  3. Mrs W started managing Mr Y’s finances in August using a power of attorney. She did not register it with the Office of the Public Guardian in case Mr Y’s confusion was temporary.
  4. In October Mr & Mrs Y moved to assisted living accommodation closer to friends. The Council told Mr Y:
    • the COVID-19 funding for his care package would end after the move;
    • it would then charge him for his care, so there would be a financial assessment; and
    • it would review his care and support plan.

According to the Council’s records, Mr Y said he understood. The Council did not confirm in writing that the COVID-19 funding would come to an end and it would therefore be charging Mr Y for his care. However, on 8 October the Council sent a financial assessment form to Mr Y. It also sent a form for Mrs Y to complete because of a change in her financial circumstances.

  1. The October assessment of his needs says Mr Y managed his own finances and could make his own decisions. He asked the Council to shorten his evening call from 30 to 15 mins. The cost of his care package was £164.15 a week. The Council completed the assessment over the telephone because of COVID-19.
  2. The Council reviewed Mr Y’s care and support plan in November (six weeks after the move). He said he had been trying to fill in the financial assessment forms with help from someone. Following concerns raised by the supported living accommodation, Mr Y agreed to an increase in his evening call back to 30 minutes. This took the cost of his care package to £196.98 a week.
  3. When the Council spoke to Mr Y in January 2021, he said he had been given permission to drive again after being assessed. He said he and his wife were going to the bank to get statements for the financial assessment.
  4. Mrs Y died in a car accident later in January. While in hospital Mr Y tested positive for COVID-19. He also experienced delirium.
  5. The Council spoke to Mrs W on 22 January about the information needed to complete Mr Y’s financial assessment. She told the Council she had power of attorney for his property and affairs. Mrs X agreed to stay with her father temporarily so he could return home. He returned home on 25 January.
  6. The Council visited Mr Y to assess his needs on 9 February. Mrs W took part via video link. She complained about the Council charging for his care package, saying she understood it was still being paid for by the NHS. She said the care package was too large for her father. They agreed a care package based on three calls a day (1 hour in total) costing £136.08 a week. The Council said it had been satisfied Mr Y had the capacity to make decisions when it put the care package in place following his move in October. It explained why the NHS funding ended.
  7. The Council completed Mr Y’s financial assessment in May. It decided he could pay the full cost of his care as he had capital over £23,250. It offered a deferred payment agreement as the capital is in a property Mr Y no longer lives in. They have decided not to take up this offer.

Is there evidence of fault by the Council which caused injustice?

  1. Under the Mental Capacity Act 2005 people must be assumed to have the capacity to make decisions for themselves, unless it is established that they lack capacity. There is nothing in the Council’s records to suggest there were grounds to question Mr Y’s capacity to make decisions about his care needs or to manage his finances. Although he experienced delirium in hospital in the summer of 2020, the Psychiatric Team did not question his mental capacity.
  2. The records show Mr Y engaged in the assessment of his needs. The Council explained it would be charging for his care after he moved in October 2020. It sent him the form to complete a financial assessment. Mrs X has suggested her father assumed this was within the context of his wife’s care. However, there is nothing in the Council’s records to suggest that was the case. Besides, the Council also sent Mrs Y a form to complete, so it would have been clear there was one for each of them. It is also clear the discussions about charging were within the context of Mr Y’s care.
  3. The evidence does not support the claim there has been fault by the Council.

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Final decision

  1. I have completed my investigation on the basis there has been no fault by the Council.

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Investigator's decision on behalf of the Ombudsman

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