Ombudsman investigation leads to council waiving £7k care fees

Rochdale Metropolitan Borough Council has agreed to waive more than £7,000 in care fees after a Local Government and Social Care Ombudsman investigation found the local authority failed to maintain an oversight of the man's care and support and failed to carry out adequate financial reviews.

The man, referred to as Mr Y, has a diagnosis of autism spectrum disorder, depression, anxiety and short-term memory. In 2015, an assessment of his needs flagged Mr Y's diagnosis and noted he needed help with planning and decision making.

A year later, another assessment noted that his depression and anxiety impacted his ability to complete tasks, such as maintaining a home or managing paperwork and finances. It said he did not recognise the need to pay bills, and he needed support to help him understand.

Responding to the Ombudsman's inquiries, the council said Mr Y was not initially required to contribute to the cost of his care. However, in a review in 2018, the council found Mr Y had failed to tell the council about a change in his benefits.

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The change meant Mr Y would have been liable to pay care charges from October 2016, so the council backdated his financial assessment.

The council said it wrote to Mr Y in August 2015 explaining the position about contributing to the cost of his care. It also said his financial assessment was explained to him in July 2018 with his mother present.

The council then sent out invoices to Mr Y as well as financial statements to support with repayment of debt. Unfortunately, after December 2018, the council sent invoices to Mr Y's old address. The council apologised for this error. It said it sent invoices to the correct address from February 2019 onwards. The council also said it sent financial statement letters to the correct address.

Mr Y's care debt rose to £7,558.17 before his mother brought the complaint to the Ombudsman.

Following its investigation, the Ombudsman found fault with the council for improperly reviewing or re-assessing Mr Y's financial circumstances, which left the council unaware of Mr Y's extra income and led to the situation.

"The support was designed not only to support Mr Y to manage his finances and paperwork, but also to help him live independently. Regardless of the result of the recent capacity assessment, Mr Y is a vulnerable person and the support the council put in place failed."

He added: "I found the council failed to maintain a proper oversight of Mr Y's package of care and support. It also failed to carry out adequate financial reviews.

"The Council's failings not only led to Mr Y incurring a significant debt, but also caused him distress. That is Mr Y's injustice.

In light of the findings, the Ombudsman made a number of recommendations to which Rochdale agreed, including the waiver of Mr Y's outstanding charges of £7,558.

The local authority also agreed to apologise to Mr Y for failing to maintain proper oversight of his package of care and support and for failing to carry out adequate financial reviews.

Martin Lawton, the council’s assistant director for adult social care operations, said: “We have accepted the findings of the Local Government Ombudsman and ensured the recommendations set out in the LGO report have been implemented.”

Adam Carey

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