Audit, Inspection and Safety


Yorkshire county council panned for ‘confusing and conflicting’ care errors

North Yorkshire County Council has been criticised by the Local Government & Social Care Ombudsman (LGO) for communication failures which led to two families being given “confusing and conflicting” information on the care of their relative.

The ombudsman received two complaints about the council related to the amount residents were asked to pay for care at a time described as “one of the most stressful life events.”

The authority had given both families inaccurate information, leaving them with much higher fees than would normally have been charged for services.

In one case council officials had provided “confused” information to a family, leaving them to pay significantly over the odds for their mother’s care. In the other situation, the family was not provided with an affordable option and left paying a high weekly cost on top of what the council initially offered.

In both cases, authority officials told the families they would have to make arrangements to pay the additional ‘top-up fees’ directly with the care home rather than with the council, contrary to statutory guidelines.

LGO Michael King said the reports represented a clear example to the rest of the country of the right way to deal with social care costs.

“These two cases highlight exactly why councils need to give families clear and accurate information upfront about the financial arrangements, the care available and its cost when placing relatives in care settings,” King explained.

“Just this week the Care Quality Commission published details of its survey, which found that choosing care for loved ones is one of the most stressful life events for people. This stress can only be compounded when councils offer confusing and conflicting information at crucial times in the process.

“There is much that other councils can learn from our investigation findings that could help clear up the fog of confusion around top-up fees.”

King went on to urge councils’ adult social care teams to review their own policies and ensure they meet the demands of the Care Act.

North Yorkshire County Council has agreed deals with both families to make the situation right, including two apologies and a refund for the top-up payments made, with one complainant receiving £500 for the trouble of bringing a complaint.

In addition, the council has agreed to review a number of its processes and ensure care and support plans are up-to-date with statutory requirements.

PSE contacted North Yorkshire and is awaiting a response.

Last month, the LGO was forced to take out a second report on the Council of the Isles of Scilly, for failing to react to an initial review of social care failings.

The ombudsman had originally chosen not to publish the complaint but was prompted to pursue the issue further when the council failed to react to recommendations.

Top image: RomanBabakin

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