County Council pays woman after delaying mother’s care payment

An elderly woman accumulated “large” debt after a council delayed arranging a payment plan for her care home, a local government watchdog has found.

According to the Local Government and Social Care Ombudsman, a woman referred to as “Mrs A” complained Essex County Council had delayed arranging the plan to help her mother pay for outstanding care fees for over a year, meaning she amassed a “large” debt.

An Ombudsman report said the delay caused “distress and uncertainty during a difficult period”.

The council says it accepts the Ombudsman’s findings and will now pay Mrs A £300.

A spokesperson for Essex County Council said in a statement: “We have acknowledged and accepted the findings of the Local Government and Social Care Ombudsman and the recommendations contained in the report.

“We remain dedicated to ensuring all our residents receive the highest quality of care and are committed to learning to improve.”

According to the report, Mrs A sent multiple emails to the council over 12 months and was not responded to on several occasions.

She officially complained to the council in March 2021, the report continues.

When she again did not hear from the council, she complained to the Ombudsman.

The Ombudsman also found the council at fault for failing to carry out the actions agreed in the complaint response.

In the report, the council says it made attempts to speak to Mrs A on the phone but could not reach her.

The Ombudsman accepts this but also notes Mrs A’s primary method of communication was email and it was therefore unreasonable for the council to not have responded to Mrs A’s emails several times.

Council staff had also discussed the emails internally and asked for it to be resolved, the report continues.

The county council must now apologise to Mrs A in writing, then pay her £100 in recognition of the time taken to pursue her complaint and £200 in recognition of the distress caused by the delay.

Within 12 weeks, the council must also consider a service improvement, including its monitoring of requests where people are not reachable on the phone.

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Charlie Ridler

Local Democracy Reporter