Adult social care teams have been urged to ensure they provide clear advice on disability payments following the case of a woman who was left without proper care and support.
An investigation by the Local Government Ombudsman (LGO) found Central Bedfordshire Council had failed to provide the woman with sufficient information and did not deal with her complaints properly.
The LGO also found the council had 'failed to keep adequate records including her care needs assessment and records of meetings, and did not provide the woman with clear information about its assessments and calculations'.
Together with a series of other failings, it left the woman without a proper support plan and meant she had less care than she should have received.
'[She] has not had an accurate financial assessment since 2010 so is likely to have been wrongly charged, and has suffered significant and avoidable distress and frustration.'
The council has been asked to apologise to the woman, confirm that it will not seek to reclaim any unpaid contributions and write off any debts it is trying to recover. The LGO also called on the council to pay £5,000 to compensate for her lack of care and support and £2,000 for the distress caused.
Dr Jane Martin, Local Government Ombudsman, said: 'Negotiating the different financial requirements of the adult social care system can be a daunting prospect for people. Local authorities need to remember that many people are relying upon clear and accurate advice and support from their council to help them make informed choices about their care.
'This case highlights the consequences when that clear advice is not available leading to a vulnerable woman receiving less care and support than she might have been entitled to for a number of years.
'I am pleased Central Bedfordshire Council has agreed to my recommendations and hope the remedies I have recommended will improve the situation for this woman and ensure this sort of confusion does not happen again for other people.'
Julie Ogley, director of social care, health and housing at Central Bedfordshire Council said: 'We have listened to all the feedback and recommendations from the Ombudsman about this case and are taking action to meet these.
'We completely agree with Dr Martin that the different financial requirements of the adult social care system can be daunting but we really do want the process of direct payments to be as clear, simple and straightforward as possible. These recommendations will help us in our efforts to make it an easier process for people.'