Council wrong to bill man for care he didn’t use, says ombudsman

The Local Government Ombudsman has criticised Walsall Council for charging disabled man for personal care he did not use

Local Government Ombudsman Jane Martin
Local Government Ombudsman Jane Martin

Walsall council has been taken to task for charging a disabled man for care services he neither wanted nor used.

A Local Government Ombudsman investigation found the council had failed to clearly explain the charges and to consider alternative accommodation before placing the man in an extra care housing scheme.

The man, who was placed in extra care in October 2011, was expected to pay for personal care despite having his needs met by a friend.

The man refused to pay and accrued a debt of £9,000 for the services.

The ombudsman found that the council did not explain the charges clearly, did not adequately consider alternative housing and was wrong to charge him for care he did not want.

Local Government Ombudsman Jane Martin said: “This is not the first time I have asked Walsall council to reconsider its current charging structure for extra care housing schemes: the council has failed to carry out the remedy it agreed to in a previous complaint.

“The man in this case did not have any choice in the accommodation he could move to and the evidence suggests that the home he was given was never likely to be a good fit. I find that the council did not adequately consider alternative housing options for the man before placing him in extra care housing.

“I question whether it can ever be fair to ask someone to pay for personal care when they do not want to use the service.”

The ombudsman told Walsall Council to waive the personal care charges accrued by the man and halve his bill for the housing scheme’s on-call service.

In addition, it said the council should review the man’s housing needs and its charging policies within the next three months.

Walsall council said it has accepted the ombudsman’s recommendations and has begun work on implementing them.

“The wellbeing of residents is our priority and we are committed to working with them, and their families and carers, to find solutions that will help them enjoy the best quality of life possible,” said Barbara McCracken, Walsall’s cabinet member for social care and health.

“While we have the best intentions, however, we accept we don’t always get it right, as this case illustrates. We regret the worry that this gentleman has experienced and would like to reassure residents that lessons have been learned.”

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