Councils have been warned to find affordable care home placements by the Local Government Ombudsman.
The warning follows an investigation by the Local Government and Social Care Ombudsman into Dudley Metropolitan Borough Council which upheld a family’s complaint that they were given no alternative but to pay a ‘third party top-up fee’ to pay for their mother’s care.
Michael King, Local Government and Social Care Ombudsman, said: “Families can only make proper informed decisions about their relatives’ care if they are given the correct information. In this case, the family was only presented with one option – to pay a top-up fee – and no further details about their rights.
“We issued a focus report on top-up fees in 2015 because we saw systemic problems across the country and I’m disappointed we are still seeing councils getting these issues wrong. I would urge other councils to check their own policies and procedures to ensure people in their areas are not similarly affected.”
The Ombudsman investigation found the trust, acting on behalf of the council, had not acted in line with statutory guidance when arranging the mother’s care. There was no evidence any alternative placement was made available for which the mother would not need a top-up. The trust could provide no evidence of any approaches made to any other care homes.
The investigation also found fault with the trust as it could not provide evidence of any information it gave to the family about top-ups. Additionally it did not enter into a written top-up agreement with the family and failed to check on the continued affordability.
Concerns over a lack of care home pricing transparency are one of the main issues being address by the CMA’s investigation into the sector (see BREAKING NEWS: CMA investigates whether care homes are breaking the law).