Ombudsman raps council over top-up fee charge

The Local Government and Social Care Ombudsman has rapped Norfolk County Council for incorrectly charging a care home resident’s family a top-up fee.

The council has agreed to investigate whether more care home residents have been incorrectly charged top-ups after the family’s complaint was upheld by the Ombudsman.

Local Government and Social Care Ombudsman, Michael King, said: “Councils should not take into account the value of a person’s property when making assessments of people’s ability to pay for their care in a care home during the first 12 weeks of their stay.

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“If this means a person’s capital falls below the threshold of £23,250, the council should offer an affordable care home that does not require a top-up fee.

“I am pleased Norfolk council has agreed to the remedy, and hope the recommendations made will improve services and the information provided to many people at what is often a difficult and stressful time for families.”

A Norfolk County Council spokesman said: “We acknowledge the distress and worry which was caused as a result of an error on our part and have apologised unreservedly.

“We fully respect the outcome of the Local Government Ombudsman investigation and have agreed to take action which the Ombudsman regards as providing a satisfactory remedy for the complaint.

“While we had already waived the top up fee, we will be putting in place new measures, including reviewing our guidance and training for staff to ensure lessons are learned.  We have also paid £300 in compensation.

“We will also be reviewing whether there have been similar cases in the last 12 months. This review is underway and we will be reporting our findings to the LGO in in late spring/early summer.”

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