Council Wrongfully Charges Family While Selling House To Pay For Care


The Law Of…Challenging Unfair Charges for Care

A family were wrongfully charged while trying to sell their mother's home in order to pay for her care.

James Urquhart-Burton, Care Homes Claims Partner, explains the story.

'Affordable' Care

A Norfolk based family placed their mother into a care home and subsequently sold her house in order to cover the costs. Norfolk council should have offered the mother 'affordable' care, allowing the family to sell the home without having to pay any 'top-up' fees on top of what the council was contributing to the cost of the care.

However, in the end, the family were charged for the 12 weeks it took to sell the house. The Council's argument was that the woman’s capital, including her property, exceeded £23,250, which is the agreed limit.

The Ombudsman conducted an investigation and found this assessment to be false, and that the fees had been wrongfully charged to the family. The council waived the fee, and under suggestion of the Ombudsman service, proceeded to check through past cases to ensure others had not been charged an incorrect amount.

The Local Government And Social Care Ombudsman

On Norfolk Council's error, the Local Government and Social Care Ombudsman, Michael King, stated:

Councils should not take into account the value of a person’s property when making assessments of people’s ability to pay for their care in a care home during the first 12 weeks of their stay."

If this means a person’s capital falls below the threshold of £23,250, the council should offer an affordable care home that does not require a top-up fee."

I am pleased Norfolk council has agreed to the remedy, and hope the recommendations made will improve services and the information provided to many people at what is often a difficult and stressful time for families."

The Local Government and Social Care Ombudsman are tasked with providing solutions to complications and injustices surrounding the social care system. They also share information and resources from investigations with the intention of improving public and social care services.

In response to the above case, Norfolk Council has paid £300 in distress to the family and will also review its policies to ensure people have access to all the information they need when making decisions on care homes and the costs.

James Comments:

The problem which occurred, in this case, is the most common complaint we see in relation to third party top-ups. Simply because this poor lady had 'sufficient' capital, the Local Authority doesn’t appear to have considered whether there was suitable alternative accommodation which could have met her needs at a more affordable rate during the '12-week capital disregard' period."

"For this reason, if a family member is asked by the Local Authority to pay a top up, they should always question whether this is in fact right. It is of course a shame that this should even be necessary given that the responsibility rests with the Local Authority.”

Have You Been Wrongfully Charged?

If you believe you have been wrongly charged by a care home, contact a member of our Care Homes Claims team today. Our specialists can give you all the information you need, and assist you in retrieving any costs that may have been unfairly accrued while you or your loved one was in care.

Contact us using our freephone number, or by sending a secure E-message using our online enquiry form.

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