Wirral Council to compensate overcharged service users

Wirral Council is to pay a group of learning disabled people more than £241,000 after overcharging them for several years for residential services, vindicating the complaints of a whistleblower in 2008.

The service users may have to claim back their overpayment from Wirral in order to protect their benefits entitlement, said a report to the council’s cabinet last week.

Between July 2000 and April 2003 residents in three residential settings were subject to charges that were not in line with the council’s fees policy. After the government’s fairer charging guidance was introduced in April 2003, the charges became unlawful but Wirral did not change its policy until February 2006.

Of the 16 people affected, three have since died and five have moved out of the premises concerned. Service users are being advised to approach advocacy services to help them make a decision on their claim.

A spokesperson said: “It would be highly inappropriate for Wirral Council to advise the people concerned in this matter whether they should pursue a claim.

“The information that people need to help them make a choice will be offered in targeted formats and delivered in whatever way is appropriate to an individual’s needs.”

It is not clear where the money will come from; £68,000 had been set aside to cover the repayment but more than £173,000 will have to be found from other council budgets because the adults’ services department is unable to meet the one-off cost.

In 2008, council employee Martin Morton blew the whistle by informing managers of the overcharging. He was later forced to leave the council.

The council has apologised to Morton unreservedly, although no misconduct was found by the investigation into his complaint.

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