North Yorkshire County Council has apologised to elderly care home residents after a watchdog upheld a series of complaints about the authority’s failings.
The Local Government and Social Care Ombudsman said North Yorkshire County Council had acted unjustly to three care home residents and has taken the step of publishing its reports to highlight the issues.
The ombudsman’s criticisms of the authority included a failure “to act in line with law and guidance” when assessing charges for residential care, “causing confusion and uncertainty”, and not considering all the facts when making decisions.
In one case, the council terminated a contract with a care home and stopped making payments for a stroke survivor, who is now aged 90, whose savings had fallen below the £23,500 threshold under which the council needed to contribute to her care.
The council said by giving gifts to her family she had intentionally reduced her savings to a level where she could no longer had to pay all her fees.
The elderly woman’s family dismissed the council’s claim and said it had simply continued her practice of giving them financial presents – £74,250 of the elderly woman’s £250,000 savings over a seven-year period.
The ombudsman said while councils should strive to ensure people do not avoid paying fees, “People should be treated with dignity and respect and be able to spend the money they have saved as they wish – it is their money after all”.
Alongside recommending the council apologise to the elderly woman and compensate her for the distress caused, the ombudsman said the council should review its procedures and guidance for staff on how to deal with cases
where care home residents may have tried to avoid paying fees.
The second case involved the council failing to provide enough help when a woman had to move from a residential care home to a nursing home, resulting in her being forced to accept a placement which required a top-up payment to be paid by the woman’s daughter.
The final upheld complaint found the council had misinformed a woman’s daughter about the charges for her mother’s care in a care home.
A spokesman for the authority said the council had sent written apologies to the care home residents and accepted the ombudsman’s recommendations.
He acknowledged that there were improvements to be made in some of its social care practices and processes.
The council’s leader, Councillor Carl Les said: “It is always disappointing to receive criticism, but we have to accept the findings of the ombudsman. The council always strives to do its best.”