The Local Government and Social Care Ombudsman, Michael King, has been busy again. His role is to ‘remedy injustice and share learning from investigations to help improve public, and adult social care, services’. He has the power to make recommendations to improve a council’s processes for the wider public. In this case, he did just that.
Norfolk County Council did not apply the financial assessment procedure properly and as a result, the Council has apologised, agreed to refund the charges wrongly made and paid £300 for the distress caused to the family.
The Council is amending its procedures. It has agreed to check if they have wrongly charged other people in the county and to improve the information it offers to families when seeking help with care home placements.
That sounds like a good result all round!
When mum went in to a care home, her assets, other than her house, were below the £23,250 limit. The Council included her property in the assessment and so decided she was not entitled to assistance with funding. That is a pretty basic error and I am surprised that they made it. But the 12 week property disregard has a less well known knock-on effect which the council also got wrong.
Local Government and Social Care Ombudsman, Michael King, said:
“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.
It is the ‘affordable care home’ bit that is interesting.
Councils set a limit for the fees they will pay towards someone’s long-term care. A home charging fees within those limits is ‘an affordable care home’. If the resident, or their family, choose a home above that limit, then they have to pay the extra as a ‘top-up’, which can be £200-£300 a week in some cases.
In this case, that was not explained to the family, who then chose a more expensive home and the council charged the family for the first 12 weeks on the basis that it did not have to offer her an affordable placement. It has had to refund all charges, including the top up.
After the 12 weeks, mum will be back to funding her care privately but the amount in dispute was several thousand pounds. Worth arguing over!
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