Decision : Upheld
Decision date : 01 Jul 2021
The Ombudsman's final decision:
Summary: We will not investigate Ms X’s complaint that the Council has failed to pay the full cost to her care home of caring for a young person who stayed some months after she became an adult and ceased to be a ‘looked after child’. I am satisfied with the Council’s action. It has apologised to Ms X for the delay and is paying the money owed. The Council has acknowledged poor complaint handling and has given advice to officers.
- Ms X complains the Council has failed to pay 3 invoices to her care home amounting to £20,492.66. The money is owed for a young person ‘A’ who was in Council care and placed with them between July 2020 and January 2021. Ms X says the placement agreement was with the Council but it says the home should get half the money from the Health Trust. Ms X says the Council paid half of the bill late and its approach has put the care home’s financial viability at risk. If the provider closed children in placement would be adversely affected.
- Ms X complains the Council has failed to reply to her complaint about its actions and failure to pay all the invoices.
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’. We provide a free service, but must use public money carefully. We may decide not to start or continue with an investigation if we are satisfied with the actions the Council proposes to take. (Local Government Act 1974, section 24A(6), as amended)
How I considered this complaint
- I have considered Ms X’s information and comments and discussed the complaint with her by telephone. I have clarified the position with the Council, considered its replies, and spoken to our link officer. The information includes a copy of Ms X’s complaint and communications with the National Health Service Care Commissioning Group (CCG).
What I found
- Ms X says ‘A’ was a looked after child being in the voluntary care of the Council (Children Act 1989, section 20). The Council placed ‘A’ with her home for six months from July 2020. The Council has confirmed this was under an ‘individual placement agreement’ (IPA). On 15 January 2021, the placement ended when the Council moved ‘A’ (who was by then an adult) to an adult social care placement. Ms X says in March the Council paid half the invoice for A’s care and told her to go to the NHS for the rest. The NHS has directed her back to the Council.
- The Council has confirmed with the Ombudsman that it placed the young person with the home when she was in care. The Council paid the full cost of the payment until ‘A’ became an adult and was no longer in care. The leaving care team funded one month post eighteen. The Council says it agreed to pay the full cost of the placement to Ms X and this should have been done. The Council would then recharge the CCG for its contribution to the cost. On 30 June, the Council wrote to Ms X apologising for ‘the delay and confusion’. The letter says it has paid the money owed.
- The Council has confirmed it received a complaint from Ms X on 28 April. It has not been able to provide this office with a complaint reply. The Council tells me this was an unfortunate oversight and has explained there was a communication problem between children’s services and the adult team. The link officer has assured us that advice has been given about the need to pass on information.
- Analysis & Agreed Action
- I will not investigate Ms X’s complaint for the following reasons:
- The Council has accepted it should have paid the full invoice for care of ‘A’ to Ms X. It has written to Ms X, apologised for the delay and has made the payment which should be received shortly. The actions are sufficient to settle the complaint.
- We will not usually investigate complaint handling when not investigating the main complaint and we will not do so here. The Council has acknowledged a problem with the complaint handling and given advice to officers.
- The Ombudsman will not investigate Ms X’s complaint that the Council failed to pay the full cost to her care home of caring for a young person who stayed some months after she became an adult and ceased being a ‘looked after child’. I am satisfied with the Council’s actions. It has apologised to Ms X for the delay and is paying the money owed. The Council has acknowledged poor complaint handling and has given advice to officers.
Investigator's decision on behalf of the Ombudsman