William Eichler 12 February 2020

Ombudsman reminds councils of care home ‘top-up fees’ duties

Councils across England are being reminded by the local government Ombudsman of their duties under the Care Act to administer ‘top-up fees’ for people contributing towards relatives’ care.

Top-up fees are the difference someone - often a relative - chooses to pay for a loved-one’s stay in a care home over and above the amount the council has agreed to pay.

The Local Government and Social Care Ombudsman’s warning comes after two councils - Dudley Metropolitan Borough Council and Lincolnshire County Council - disputed some of the Ombudsman’s recommendations against them.

The Ombudsman found that Dudley council had been asking relatives to enter into an agreement with the care home to pay the amount as standard practice, rather than administer the funding itself and claim the money from the relatives.

In response to the Ombudsman’s recommendation that the local authority stop this practice, Dudley council argued it would cost too much to administer the changes and that it did not have to give the relative a choice of who to pay.

Cllr Nicholas Barlow, cabinet member for adult social care at Dudley council, said: ‘While we take the recommendations of the Ombudsman seriously and have adhered to almost all of them, having taken legal advice we are confident our processes are appropriate and are in the best interests of all parties.

‘If we were to change the way we administer top-up fees, it could have a real detrimental impact on the council’s finances.’

In Lincolnshire, the Ombudsman found the local authority did not give people the option to pay the top-up fee to the council. They argued it would cost too much to change the current approach.

‘Councils are encouraged to administer the top-up fees, and recoup the money from relatives, because it gives the best security for vulnerable people living in care homes should there be any problems with payments,’ said Michael King, Local Government and Social Care Ombudsman.

‘The reasons both councils have given for departing from the Guidance – the financial cost of doing things properly – is irrelevant. At the heart of the matter, we have two councils absolving themselves of their responsibilities to offer the public its basic protections set out in law.

‘We also issued guidance to councils back in 2015 on administering these fees, and were quite clear that leaving the administration of top-up fees to care homes was wrong.

‘I now call on both authorities to reconsider both my reports and make the necessary arrangements to ensure they comply with the recommendations I have set out.’

SIGN UP
For your free daily news bulletin
Highways jobs

Senior Technician

Rhondda Cynon Taff County Borough Council
£27,514
We are looking to recruit a Senior Technician within the busy Structures team. Pontypridd, Rhondda Cynon Taf
Recuriter: Rhondda Cynon Taff County Borough Council

Senior Engineer

Rhondda Cynon Taff County Borough Council
£36,371
We are looking to recruit a Senior Engineer within the Structures team. Pontypridd, Rhondda Cynon Taf
Recuriter: Rhondda Cynon Taff County Borough Council

Business Hub Manager

Sevenoaks District Council
£40,208 - £43,251 (Subject to Job Evaluation)
Later this year Sevenoaks District Council will be launching a new business hub and business support service in Swanley. Swanley, Kent
Recuriter: Sevenoaks District Council

Economic Development & Programmes Manager

Sevenoaks District Council
£52,305 - £55,475 plus car allowance of £2,700
How would you support the economic development of Sevenoaks? Sevenoaks, Kent
Recuriter: Sevenoaks District Council

Head of Digital

Dacorum Borough Council
Up to £70,092.00 per annum (inclusive of London Fringe Weighting)
This is a fantastic time to join Dacorum Borough Council. Dacorum
Recuriter: Dacorum Borough Council

Partner Content

Circular highways is a necessity not an aspiration – and it’s within our grasp

Shell is helping power the journey towards a circular paving industry with Shell Bitumen LT R, a new product for roads that uses plastics destined for landfill as part of the additives to make the bitumen.

Support from Effective Energy Group for Local Authorities to Deliver £430m Sustainable Warmth Funded Energy Efficiency Projects

Effective Energy Group is now offering its support to the 40 Local Authorities who have received a share of the £430m to deliver their projects on the ground by surveying properties and installing measures.

Pay.UK – the next step in Bacs’ evolution

Dougie Belmore explains how one of the main interfaces between you and Bacs is about to change.