Councils are being urged to check their care charging procedures by the Local Government and Social Care Ombudsman.
The advice comes after two North Yorkshire families were overcharged for their relatives’ care after they were given inaccurate information by the county council.
Michael King, Local Government and Social Care Ombudsman, said: “These two cases highlight exactly why councils need to give families clear and accurate information upfront about the financial arrangements, the care available and its cost when placing relatives in care settings.
“Just this week the Care Quality Commission published details of its survey, which found that choosing care for loved ones is one of the most stressful life events for people. This stress can only be compounded when councils offer confusing and conflicting information at crucial times in the process.
“There is much that other councils can learn from our investigation findings that could help clear up the fog of confusion around top-up fees. I would urge councils’ adult social care teams to read our 2015 top-up fee Focus Report and review their own policies to ensure they meet the demands of the Care Act.”
In the first case, the Ombudsman found the council had given the family “confused and confusing” information about the fees they should pay for their mother’s care.
The council has agreed to apologise to the family and refund the woman’s estate the ‘top-up fee’ for a period of 10 months.
In the second case, the family was not provided with an affordable option in a suitable location when looking to place their mother in a nursing home leaving them to pay a large weekly amount on top of what the council said it would pay for their care.
The council has agreed to apologise and pay the family £500 for the time and trouble of bringing the complaint. It will also refund £50 per week of the top-up paid by the resident’s daughter for her mother’s care and waive this from future payments at least until it reviews the placement top-up.
In both cases, the council told the families they would have to make arrangements to pay the additional ‘top up fees’ directly with the care home rather than with the council, contrary to statutory guidelines.