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Dudley council to refund care home fees following Ombudsman investigation

Dudley council has agreed to refund care home top-up fees for concerned families whose relatives were not offered an affordable placement, because of a Local Government and Social Care Ombudsman investigation.

The agreement has come following a complaint from a man about care home top-up fees he paid for his mother’s care. The man’s mother, who had dementia, was placed in a care home following a fall. At the time there were no available beds in care homes that would not require the son to pay a top-up fee, over what the council agreed to pay for his mother’s care.

The son said he was happy for his mother to stay in the care home short-term but would have preferred her to move to an alternative affordable placement in the long-term. Because of the COVID-19 pandemic she remains at the first home, and the son is still paying a top-up fee.

Michael King, Local Government and Social Care Ombudsman, said:

“Our investigation has found no evidence Dudley council offered the family an affordable placement with an available room, at the time his mother needed to be accommodated. Because of this, the council should not have charged the son a top-up fee.

“We published a public interest report about Dudley council in 2017 concerning similar issues and at the time it agreed to improve the way it dealt with third-party top-up fees. I am concerned the council has not fully learned from this and we have had to issue this second report.

“I hope the council will now take the learning from these complaints into its long-term practice. The improvements to its procedures it has committed to make, should help to ensure this situation does not arise again.”

The Local Government and Social Care Ombudsman’s role is to remedy injustice and share learning from investigations to help improve public, and adult social care, services. In this case the council has agreed to apologise to the son and refund the top-up fees he has paid since his mother entered the care home.

The Ombudsman has the power to make recommendations to improve processes for the wider public. In this case the council has agreed to review its procedures to ensure people are always offered a care home placement within their personal budget. It will also review all cases since January 2020 where people entered council-funded residential care and pay-tops, to see if refunds are due to anybody not offered an alternative care home that does not require a top-up.

The council has also agreed to apply the same principles to any family that complains who were not offered an available care home placement within their personal budget dating back to 2017.

Article date: 19 August 2021