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Council criticised over top-up fees failings

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The Local Government Ombudsman (LGO) has reminded councils that they must give families the option of a nursing or care home which does not require top-up fees.

There have been fresh concerns about how local authorities are handling arrangements following a recent investigation of Solihull Council, in the West Midlands.

The watchdog reported that a man had been moved into a nursing home in September 2007.

Prior to this the borough council had contacted 13 homes on behalf of the family. However, only one of these facilities accepted the standard rate of fees and they didn’t have a room available at the time.

This effectively meant that the man’s family only had a choice of homes which charged top-up fees and they ended up paying the additional sum for a period of three years.

Local Government Ombudsman, Dr Jane Martin, said: “If no placements are available in their area that do not require a top-up then councils must fund the top-up themselves.

“In this case, no affordable placement was offered and the family was not made aware that such an alternative should have been available to them. I would urge Solihull council to act upon my recommendations and consider the lessons from our focus report.”

The LGO said that it was the latest example of people not receiving the information which would enable them to make an informed choice about their loved one’s care.

In this latest case, the regulator has recommended that the local authority makes an apology to the man’s daughter and refund the top-up fees that were paid over the three year period.