Woman charged for hours of care she did not receive

A Suffolk woman, who was charged for homecare despite workers falsifying records, should have some of her fees refunded, the Local Government and Social Care Ombudsman has said.

The woman was assessed as needing care visits in her home three times a day. The visits should have lasted between 30 and 45 minutes, but records suggest on some occasions agency carers only spent 20 minutes with her.

Suffolk County Council, which arranged the care, has been criticised in the Ombudsman’s investigation for failing to tell the woman about the care provider’s minimum charging policy.

Michael King, Local Government and Social Care Ombudsman, said:

“People can only make informed choices about the care they receive if they are given the correct information at the outset.

“Had the council managed the woman’s expectations by telling her about the provider’s minimum charge policy, she could have chosen to make alternative arrangements; something which she has since done.

“I would now urge Suffolk County Council to review my report and put in place the recommendations I have made.”

The woman was assessed as needing 12 hours 15 minutes care a week; this was made up of 45 minutes in the morning, 30 minutes at lunchtime and 30 minutes in the afternoon/evening. But within a month, the woman’s representative noticed the carers were entering incorrect times of arrival and departure on the records kept at the woman’s home.

The woman paid the full cost of her care, and when charged by the council, complained she should not have to pay the full amount.

The care agency said it was confident the woman was receiving the right level of care, but told the council it was taking the carers less time to perform the tasks than allocated. The provider was unwilling to ‘bank’ the time paid for where visits had been cut short.

The council told the Ombudsman the care agency had a minimum visit time of 30 minutes, but there is no record of the woman being told this before the care started.

The Local Government and Social Care Ombudsman’s role is to remedy injustice and share learning from investigations to improve local public, and adult social care, services.

In this case, the council should apologise to the woman for failing to consider reviewing her care and support plan and for failing to properly investigate her allegations of the short visits.

It should calculate how many hours of care the woman was not provided and adjust her payment accordingly. This is in addition to paying her £250 for the time and trouble she was caused in having to complain.

It has also been asked to evidence how it will keep proper records to show service users are informed at the outset about charges.

Article date: 22 November 2017

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