Dudley Council has agreed to refund care home top-up fees for families whose relatives were not offered an affordable placement.
The agreement has come following a complaint from a man about care home top-up fees he paid for his mother’s care. The man’s mother, who had dementia, was placed in a care home following a fall.
At the time there were no available beds in care homes that would not require the son to pay a top-up fee, over what the council agreed to pay for his mother’s care.
The son said he was happy for his mother to stay in the care home short-term but would have preferred her to move to an alternative affordable placement in the long-term. However, because of the COVID-19 pandemic, she remains at the first home, and the son is still paying a top-up fee.
An investigation by the Local Government and Social Care Ombudsman found that the council should not have charged the son a top-up fee.
‘Our investigation has found no evidence Dudley council offered the family an affordable placement with an available room, at the time his mother needed to be accommodated. Because of this, the council should not have charged the son a top-up fee,’ said Ombudsman Michael King.
‘We published a public interest report about Dudley council in 2017 concerning similar issues and at the time it agreed to improve the way it dealt with third-party top-up fees. I am concerned the council has not fully learned from this and we have had to issue this second report.
‘I hope the council will now take the learning from these complaints into its long-term practice. The improvements to its procedures it has committed to make, should help to ensure this situation does not arise again.’
Responding to the investigation, Cllr Nicolas Barlow, cabinet member for adult social care at Dudley Council, said: ‘We acknowledge that we need to improve the way we record the choice of care homes offered to people and we have taken a series of pro-active steps that the Ombudsman has acknowledged. The council will continue to work with the Ombudsman to this effect.’