The Local Government and Social Care Ombudsman has recently had to remind councils that they should not be delegating this arrangement to the care home, but administering it themselves.
Councils’ challenge to Ombudsman’s recommendations
The Ombudsman’s warning comes after two councils – Dudley Metropolitan Borough Council and Lincolnshire County Council – disputed some of the recommendations made against them.
Dudley Council had a standard practice of asking relatives to enter into an agreement with the care home to pay top-up fees directly, rather than administering the process itself and claiming the money from the relatives.
When asked by the Ombudsman to consider stopping this practice, the council argued that it would cost too much to administer the changes, and that it did not have to give people a choice of who to pay. It also argued that other councils continued to administer fees in the same way.
A similar situation at Lincolnshire County Council
In Lincolnshire also, the Ombudsman found that people were not given the option to pay the top-up fee to the council, and asked for the procedures to be reviewed.
Lincolnshire rejected the Ombudsman’s recommendations, again arguing it would cost too much to administer and that the use of agents – in this case, the care homes – to carry out the council’s functions was allowed.