Local authorities cannot charge people for the first six weeks of intermediate care, the Local Government and Social Care Ombudsman has warned.
The reminder from the LGO has come after an investigation into a complaint about North Somerset Council.
A family claimed the local authority was ‘not clear’ about the care home fees they had to pay when a family member left hospital following an amputation.
The council claimed that the care the relative received was not intermediate care, but ‘enablement’ and so charged the family.
‘Simply referring to intermediate care by another name does not allow the council to charge for it,’ said Ombudsmand Michael King.
‘Intermediate care, where people are receiving support with the intention of returning home, cannot be charged in this initial period.’
The council has agreed to apologise and pay the man £722.40 for the six weeks of intermediate care fees he should not have paid to the care home.
A spokesperson for North Somerset Council said: ‘The council recognises the findings of the Ombudsman report and is in the process of implementing all the recommendations within agreed timescales.
‘We have already refunded the family and apologised for any faults identified in the report.’
‘I am pleased the council has agreed to apologise to the family and pay them the remedy we have recommended,’ said Mr King.
‘However, it now needs to identify and repay any others who may have been incorrectly charged for the care they have received.’
The Ombudsman also said the council had ‘confusing and conflicting’ information on its website and in leaflets about its enablement service.
The council spokesperson said the authority’s enablement service has been commended by previous Local Government Association (LGA) and Association of Director of Adult Social Services (ADASS) Peer Review Processes and NHS England.
‘They highlighted the lengths the council goes to in order to ensure that service users potentially avoid long-term permanent care placements by extending the timeline on any key decisions to maintain independence,’ they said.
‘We acknowledge the criticism that the service has conflicting information on its leaflet and website and accept the Ombudsman judgement that the service for those successfully enabled, had become indistinguishable from the intermediate care residential offer offered by the NHS locally,’ the council’s statement continued.
‘In responding to the Ombudsman findings, and moving forward, we are seeking a response from our clinical commissioning group (CCG) with regard to the lack of intermediate care residential provision in North Somerset which is vital when people leave hospital.’