The Ombudsman's final decision:
- Mrs Y complains Excell Care Agency:
- failed to provide her with a copy of the care contract after agreeing to the care arrangement or afterwards by post or email
- failed to explain to her that suspending the provision would still require her to pay, until the contract was cancelled.
- Mrs Y’s son, Mr X has supported her to make this complaint.
The Ombudsman’s role and powers
- We investigate complaints about adult social care providers. If there has been fault, we consider whether it has caused an injustice and, if it has, we may suggest a remedy. (Local Government Act 1974, sections 34H(3) and (4), 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 discussed it with Mr X
- considered the correspondence between Mr X and the Care Provider, including the Care Provider’s response to the complaint
- taken account of relevant legislation
- offered Mr X and the Care Provider an opportunity to comment on a draft of this statement, and considered the comments made.
What I found
- The Health and Social Care Act 2008 (Regulated Activities) Regulations 2014 set out the fundamental standards those registered to provide care services must achieve. The Care Quality Commission (CQC) has issued guidance on how to meet the fundamental standards below which care must never fall.
- The Care Quality Commission (CQC) is the statutory regulator of care services. It keeps a register of care providers who show they meet the fundamental standards of care, inspects care services and issues reports on its findings. It also has power to enforce against breaches of fundamental care standards.
Care Quality Commissions (Registration) Regulations 2009
- Regulation 19 is about fees. It notes that providers should give timely and accurate information about the cost of their case and treatment to people who use services.
- To meet this regulation, providers must make written information available about any fees, contracts and terms and conditions, where people are paying either in full or in part for the cost of their care, treatment and support.
- Mrs Y had a hip operation, it became infected and she needed domiciliary care, which she commissioned privately from Excell Home Care (Sheffield) on 3 March 2020.
- Mr X says an employee from the company contacted Mrs Y and arranged to visit her to discuss her care needs. Mrs Y told Mr X about this and said she was comfortable speaking to the employee alone, as it was just about her care needs. For any matters needing formal consideration or consent Mrs Y requires support from Mr X or his sister. Mr X says Mrs Y did not expect to be discussing contractual matters.
- At the time Mrs Y was caring for her husband who had his own health problems, both in their 80s. Mr X says Mrs Y told him that during the visit from the care company she had signed a contract, Mr X was concerned that Mrs Y had not been given a copy of the agreement.
- Due to concerns about the Coronavirus, Mrs Y called the care company on 23 March 2020 to say she did not require the service. She says the company agreed to suspend the care arrangement but keep her name ‘on the books’, in case she needed the care at a later date.
- Mr X says the company did not explain to Mrs Y that suspending the care would incur a cost, and if it had Mrs Y would not have agreed to it.
- Following the suspension of the care Mrs Y received an invoice for £100, which her daughter paid without question because she thought it may be a part payment, when a second invoice arrived for £100 Mrs Y’s family contacted the care company and were told the invoices were a retainer fee and had to paid, and that if they paid the second one, they would not receive another.
- Mr X contacted the company to complain. He says he was not informed about the company’s formal complaints procedure. He did submit a formal complaint and was dissatisfied with the response. He says the company did not signpost him to the Ombudsman and he only discovered this after speaking to social services.
- On receipt of the Ombudsman’s enquiries, the care company offered to waive “…all outstanding debt/charges/invoices and close the matter, in the best interest of both parties”. It also agreed to refund Mrs Y the £100 retainer fee she has already paid.
- The investigation into this complaint will be discontinued. The care company has offered to waive all outstanding charges and refund Mrs Y the retainer fee she paid
- It is on this basis; the complaint will be closed.
Investigator's decision on behalf of the Ombudsman