North Yorkshire County Council has been rapped by the Local Government and Social Care Ombudsman for failures that led to an elderly woman’s £30,000 care home bill.
The Ombudsman ruled the Council had wrongly decided the woman had deliberately depleted her assets in order to avoid paying care home fees.
Local Government Ombudsman Michael King, said: “While I appreciate councils need to make difficult, nuanced decisions about whether people have deliberately reduced their assets, the guidance does state people with care needs are free to spend their money as they see fit.”
The woman, who was 80 when she entered the care home in 2007 after suffering a stroke, sold her home to pay for her care but carried on making gifts to her relatives.
North Yorkshire Council decided she had deliberately reduced her assets and terminated its contract with the care home.
The woman has now been informed by the care home that she has accrued a £30,000 bill.
The Ombudsman instructed the council to issue an apology to the woman’s daughter for its failure to complete a financial assessment and provide evidence that she had intentionally depleted her assets.
The council was ordered to pay the woman’s daughter £250 for distress caused and instructed to look at how the debt can be settled in order to avoid the care home placement being put at risk.
A North Yorkshire County Council spokesperson said: “We recognise that in the case in question procedures were not followed thoroughly and we apologise to the resident for our failure to complete adequately a financial assessment and to show evidence for our decision. We are arranging a new assessment for the resident and are reviewing our procedures and our guidance to staff on dealing with similar cases.
“In this case, we have worked with the care home to ensure that the resident’s care placement is not at risk. We will continue to do this and will work with the care home to reach a solution.”
The spokesperson said the case raised important issues about the funding of adult social care, particularly around how much the state, and therefore taxpayers, should pay for social care collectively and how much cost should continue to fall to individuals and their families.
County Councillor Michael Harrison, Executive Member for Adult Services and Health Integration, said: “We urgently need a long-term and sustainable solution for the care of older and vulnerable people. The County Council faces enormous and increasing pressure in the delivery of social care services and has long called on the Government to establish sustainable funding and organisational arrangements.
“We hope the Green Paper will provide an opportunity to debate options for future funding arrangements and ultimately lead to a better balance between people being able to spend their money as they wish, for example in making provision for their children, and the legal duty to contribute towards their care.”