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London council to revise its social care charging policy following Ombudsman’s investigation

London Borough of Bexley has agreed to revise its social care charging policy after a man complained to the Local Government and Social Care Ombudsman about the way the authority increased its costs.

The man told the Ombudsman the council had increased the amount it charged him in administration costs for it to manage his mother’s domiciliary care package. He said as a result the cost increased by 200 per cent.

The man had been paying a flat fee of £260 per year to the council for arranging and administering the care, but the council changed the way it charged for this service and instead charged everyone 6.1% of a person’s care and support package. This led to the man now having to pay £793 per annum.

The man complained to the council but the council delayed responding to his concerns. Initially it did not uphold his complaint, but after further discussion it accepted that those with larger packages were paying too much – and more than the actual costs the council incurred.

The council has since proposed a new policy based on a banded system. However there is still uncertainty about whether the new policy will ensure people are not over charged.

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

“The blanket charge brought in by the council is not in line with statutory guidance and has meant some people in the Bexley area are paying over the odds, and more than the costs incurred by the council.

“The council now needs to put in place a system that is fair to all and ensure the new charging policy is in line with government guidance.”

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 should apologise to the man and pay him £150 for the time and trouble in making the complaint.

The Ombudsman has the power to make recommendations to improve processes for the wider public. In this case the council will remind staff about dealing with complaints in a timely manner, addressing the complaints made, and put in place a revised charging policy.

It will also retrospectively apply any new or revised policy from May 2019 to the family and other similarly affected people and, if applicable, credit or refund their accounts.

Article date: 15 July 2021