Ombudsman finds family were wrongly charged top-up care home fees

News Article

A recent investigation by the Local Government and Social Care Ombudsman has found that a family were incorrectly charged so called ‘top-up’ care home fees.

The Ombudsman heard that when the family placed their mother in a care home and needed to sell her house to pay for her care, Norfolk County Council should have offered the woman a so-called ‘affordable’ care home.

This would have resulted in the family not having to find additional money for the top-up fee – over and above what the council would contribute – for a period of 12 weeks, while the home was being sold.

The investigation revealed that the council charged the family for those 12 weeks and wrongly argued that because the woman’s capital, including her property, was above the £23,250 threshold, it did not have to offer her an affordable placement.

Norfolk County Council has now waived the fee, paid the family £300 in compensation for the distress caused and has agreed to investigate whether they have wrongly charged top-up fees to other individuals. Additionally, the Council has agreed to improve the information it offers to families when they are seeking help with care home placements.

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.

“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.”

Tim Steele is a Partner with Palmers and specialises in legal matters relating to older client care. He has handled a number of disputes between families and both the NHS and various local authorities, over the funding of residential and nursing care.

“This case importantly highlights the fact that local authorities cannot charge top-ups where they have not been able to offer options within their ‘standard rate’ affordable care homes,” said Tim.

“Unfortunately, many families are not aware of their rights and end up paying more than they should, which is why it is so important to seek legal advice on care fees at, or preferably prior to, the point of entry into care.”

For help and support on matters relating to liability for long-term care fees and other aspects of residential and nursing care, please contact us.