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Comfort Call Limited (20 007 908)

Category : Adult care services > Domiciliary care

Decision : Upheld

Decision date : 22 Apr 2021

The Ombudsman's final decision:

Summary: Mr D complained the Care Provider failed to provide some of the care it agreed to provide to Mr X, and it charged him incorrectly for the care provided. He also said it failed to correct its errors when he brought it to its attention. The Provider agreed it was at fault and apologised to Mr D. However, this was not enough to remedy the injustice caused. And so, the Provider also agreed to apologise to Mr D and make a payment to acknowledge the distress and time and trouble Mr D experienced.

The complaint

  1. The complainant, whom I shall refer to as Mr D, complains on behalf of himself and his father, Mr X. He says the Care Provider (the Provider) poorly managed Mr X’s care provision in that it:
    • failed to provide care at some of the agreed times and days;
    • overcharged for care and failed to correct its errors when brought to its attention; and
    • failed to collect Mr D’s direct debit and asked Mr X for payment.
  2. As a result, Mr D says he and Mr X experienced distress. He also said he had time and trouble to care for Mr X and to get the Provider to correct its charges.

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The Ombudsman’s role and powers

  1. We investigate complaints about adult social care providers and decide whether their actions have caused an injustice, or could have caused injustice, to the person making the complaint. I have used the term fault to describe such actions. (Local Government Act 1974, sections 34B and 34C)
  2. If an adult social care provider’s actions have caused an injustice, we may suggest a remedy. (Local Government Act 1974, section 34H(4))
  3. If we are satisfied with a care provider’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)
  4. Under our information sharing agreement, we will share this decision with the Care Quality Commission (CQC).

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How I considered this complaint

  1. As part of my investigation, I have:
    • considered Mr D’s complaint and the Care provider’s responses;
    • Spoken with Mr D about his complaint; and
    • I gave Mr D and the Care Provider the opportunity to comment on a draft version of this decision and considered their comments.

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What I found

What happened

  1. Mr X suffers from Alzheimer’s and is diabetic. He lives on his own and needs support with some of his daily care, which is delivered by a care provider and his family.
  2. Mr X lacks capacity to make decisions about his care and managing his financial matters, but Mr D hold a Power of Attorney to support him with this. Mr X’s care is paid for privately.
  3. Mr X received care from a care agency until August 2020, when his care support was transferred to a new care agency, the Provider.
  4. The care agreement between Mr X and with the Provider said a carer should attend two times a day. The visits were scheduled at specific times each day to meet Mr X needs, in particular for his medication. The visit were:
    • A morning visit to prepare breakfast and support Mr X with personal care and medication;
    • A lunchtime visit to prepare and serve lunch; and
    • An evening visit to prepare dinner and support Mr X with personal care and medication.
  5. Mr D says the Provider failed to provide some of Mr X’s care support as agreed between August to September 2020. And so, he complained to the Provider. He said it had:
    • failed to attend on some of the scheduled times for Mr X’s lunchtime visit, which meant Mr D had to attend to support Mr X with his needs, in particular due to his diabetes;
    • attended on days where Mr D had cancelled the visits due to Mr X’s hospital appointments; and
    • wrongly charged for some of the care support Mr X did not receive, and some support were overcharged.
  6. Two weeks later, Mr X suffered a fall and was hospitalised for two weeks. When he was discharged, he had additional care needs, which the Provider could not meet. And so, the care agreement with the Provider ended in the end of September 2020. Mr D arranged for another agency to provide the care Mr X needed.
  7. In response to Mr D’s complaint, the Provider acknowledged its errors in Mr X’s care charges. Mr D says he was told it would correct these.
  8. However, two weeks later, Mr D says the incorrect charging continued and he asked the provider to confirm it was correcting the charges. Mr D also complained to the Ombudsman.
  9. In December 2020, the Provider sent a letter to Mr X, but addressed it to Mr D. It said he had not made any payments for his care and gave Mr D seven days to make payment to avoid further action.
  10. Mr D was upset the Care Provider had sent the letter to Mr X, because it was aware that he had a Power of Attorney to manage Mr X’s financial affairs. And so, he complained to the Care Provider again. He told the Provider he had a direct debit set up to pay for Mr X’s care, which had been in place with the previous care provider. And, he had been told, he did not need to make any changes. He also asked the Provider why it did not contact him about missing payments before sending the letter.
  11. In January 2021, the Care Provider told us it had corrected the charging errors and one outstanding payment was needed from Mr D. It also said it had told Mr D.
  12. However, Mr D still disagreed with some of the charges. And so, he asked a charity to help him dispute the care charges he had received from the Provider.
  13. The Provider reviewed Mr X’s care charges again and made further corrections to the charges it had asked Mr D to pay. The Provider also gave its final complaint response to Mr D. It apologised for:
    • four occasions where it failed to attend to Mr X’s care as agreed;
    • its incorrect charges and failure to get this right when Mr D complained; and
    • its lack of and poor communication with Mr D.

It also said as a result of Mr D’s complaint, it would monitor staff rotas closely to ensure it meets agreed call times and it will work with its staff to improve its communication and customer service in future.


Provision of care

  1. The Provider has agreed it failed to provide Mr X’s care as set out in their agreement on four occasions and apologised to Mr D for its failure to do so. It also apologised for its lack of and poor communication. However, I do not find its apology enough to remedy the injustice caused. This is because Mr D said he experienced distress due to concerns about whether Mr X would receive his care. In addition, he had to attend to Mr X’s care needs himself when the Provider failed to attend as agreed. I am satisfied this caused Mr D some distress. In addition, he also had time and trouble to attend to Mr X’s care needs and to bring his concerns to the attention of the Provider.
  2. However, Mr X did not experience an injustice from the Provider’s failure to attend as agreed. This was because Mr D travelled to Mr X to meet his care needs.
  3. The Provider said as a result of Mr D’s complaints it has monitored its staff rotas and it has worked with its staff to improve communication and costumer service. As Mr X’s is no longer receiving care from the Provider, I cannot say if the care or communication by the Provider has improved. However, I am satisfied with the step the Provider has taken to improve is services.

Charging errors

  1. The Provider has agreed it was at fault for its failure to charge Mr D correctly for Mr X’s care. It apologised for its errors and its failure to correct these when Mr D brought it to its attention.
  2. I am not satisfied the Provider’s apology is enough to address the injustice caused to Mr D. This is because Mr D had to complain twice to the Provider, bring his complaint to the Ombudsman, and ask for a charity for help to dispute Mr X’s care charges before the Provider amended the charges correctly. I am satisfied this caused Mr D distress each time the Provider failed to apply and amend the charges correctly. He also had time and trouble to get the Provider to correct its errors over a 6-month period.

Direct Debit and payment demand

  1. Mr D said the provider was wrong to send a demand for payment because he had a direct debit set up to pay for Mr X’s care. He said the previous care provider told him that he did not need to change the direct debit and it would continue as normal.
  2. I cannot say why Mr D’s direct debit was not transferred to the Provider and why the care charges therefore failed to be paid. However, this meant the Provider had not received payment for Mr X’s care. It was therefore entitled to request payment from Mr D, as he was the person responsible for Mr X’s finances.
  3. The letter asked Mr D to contact the provider and arrange for payment of the full balance within seven days. It also said Mr D could contact the Provider if he believed there has been an error. While I understand Mr D’s concerns about receiving such a letter, he did have charges outstanding to the Provider. And so, I cannot fault the provider for sending the letter.
  4. I understand this was the first time Mr D found out the Direct Debit was not being collected and he said the Provider should have contacted him earlier. However, I have seen no evidence the Provider was required to do so, and so I cannot fault the provider for sending the letter or not contacting him before doing so.
  5. Mr D also said the Provider was wrong to send its demand letter to Mr X as this caused him distress. He said the Provider was aware he was responsible for the care charges and it had his address. This is fault. I have seen no good reason why the Provider sent the letter to Mr X and not directly to Mr D. I acknowledge the letter was addressed to Mr D, however, as it was addressed from the Provider, I find it is reasonable to assume Mr X would open the letter. I am satisfied this caused Mr X some distress.

Agreed action

  1. To remedy the injustice the Care Provider caused to Mr X and Mr D, the Provider agreed to, within one month of the final decision:
      1. Apologise to Mr X and Mr D for the faults identified, which it has not already apologised for;
      2. Pay Mr D £400 to acknowledge the distress it caused, including the time and trouble he had to get the Provider to put things right and to provide the missing care for Mr X.

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Final decision

  1. There was fault leading to injustice. The Provider has agreed to my recommendations. Therefore, I have completed my investigation.

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Investigator's decision on behalf of the Ombudsman

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