Lincolnshire County Council has been rapped by the Local Government and Social Care Ombudsman for taking too long to change its care home charging policy.
The council agreed to make a £600 payment and issued an apology after a woman complained for the second time about the way a relative’s care home fees were charged.
The woman initially complained to the Ombudsman in 2017 over confusion caused by the council’s practice of allowing care homes to collect third-party top-up fees on its behalf.
Following the complaint, the Ombudsman said the practice had left families at the risk of their loved ones being evicted when they could not afford the fees and was not in line with the Care Act.
After initially disagreeing with the Ombudsman, the council changed its charging policy in November 2020 agreeing to collect the top-up fees itself and then pass them on to the care homes.
However, because the policy was not yet in place the woman again had to pay a top-up fee when placing her mother in a care home leading to further confusion about payment.
The council persuaded the woman to go ahead with the placement despite her concerns over affordability.
After selling her mother’s flat, the woman had to pay her mother’s fees herself but they were now too high and she was forced to find another service.
The woman complained she would not have chosen the care home if she had known she could not afford it in the long term.
Michael King, Local Government and Social Care Ombudsman, said: “While I welcome the council’s acceptance of my previous report, had it implemented the recommendations from my earlier investigations more promptly, the family might not have been failed a second time.
“Despite the council eventually agreeing to bring its payment arrangements in line with the Care Act and statutory guidance, it has still not implemented the changes. I urge the council to do so as a matter of urgency to ensure no other family is affected.”
Glen Garrod, Executive Director of Adult Care, said: “It’s always our aim to provide the good quality support and services that our residents need and deserve. However, we have not met our own high standards in this instance.
“We accept the findings of the Ombudsman and are acting on their recommendations. We will be providing a further apology to Mrs B and making a payment of £600 in recognition of the time, trouble and distress she has experienced. In addition, we are making the improvements needed to change our payment processes, so similar problems don’t happen in future.”