Merton Council rapped over 'maladministration' after elderly woman charged twice for care in Sutton
Merton Council has been found guilty of maladministration causing a woman to be billed twice for care home fees in what investigators believe was not an isolated case.
The woman, referred to as Mrs B, was placed in Sutton Court Care Centre, North Cheam, in October 2010 on a contract between the council and the care home.
The council agreed to pay £585.46 per week to cover the cost of her care, £114.54 short of the care home’s own private fees of £700 a week.
A contribution to the cost was expected to be paid by Mrs B to the council, which varied according to a means tested system.
However unbeknown to the council she had already been billed £1,374.48 by the care home for 12 weeks of care.
The error came to light when the woman's family contacted the council about having to pay fees charged by the care home.
A complaint was made to the Local Government Ombudsman who found Merton Council to be guilty of "maladministration causing injustice."
Dr Jane Martin, the ombudsman, said: "I know from the many complaints that we receive that this is not an isolated case.
"The law is clear: it says that the actions of the care provider in carrying out these arrangements shall be treated as actions of or on behalf of the council.
"Therefore I hold the council responsible for the actions taken by the care home provider in seeking to extract extra funding from the family.
"I hope my report will serve as a warning to other councils that they are responsible for any contracted providers’ activities, whether they have instructed them to act or not."
The council accepted the woman should never have been charged extra top up fees but said the care home had acted outside of the "scope of its contract" which it believed it could not be held accountable for, but have agreed to reimburse Mrs B.
A spokesperson for the council said: "The care home had no right to ask the woman’s family for top-up fees and they did not alert us to their actions.
"We will fully reimburse the relatives of the lady concerned and seek recovery of these costs from the care home.
"We are also reviewing our contracts to ensure that a provider is never able to do this again."
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