Council criticised for increasing care admin costs 200%

By William Eichler | 15 July 2021

The London Borough of Bexley has agreed to revise its social care charging policy after the administration costs for one resident’s care increased 200%.

The man complained to the Local Government and Social Care Ombudsman after the council increased the amount it charged him in administration costs for it to manage his mother’s domiciliary care package.

The man had been paying a flat fee of £260 per year to the council for arranging and administering the care, but the council changed the way it charged for this service and charged everyone 6.1% of a person’s care and support package. This led to the man now having to pay £793 per year.

The man complained and after a delay the council eventually agreed that those with larger packages were paying too much – and more than the actual costs the council incurred.

The London Borough of Bexley has since proposed a new policy based on a banded system. However, Ombudsman Michael King said there was still uncertainty about whether the new policy will ensure people are not over charged.

‘The blanket charge brought in by the council is not in line with statutory guidance and has meant some people in the Bexley area are paying over the odds, and more than the costs incurred by the council,’ he said.

‘The council now needs to put in place a system that is fair to all and ensure the new charging policy is in line with Government guidance.’

Mr King said the council should apologise to the man and pay him £150 for the time and trouble in making the complaint.

Chief executive of the council, Jackie Belton, said: 'We have apologised to the two people involved in the complaint. We accept and will act on all the Ombudsman’s recommendations.

'At the time we received the complaint we believed that our charging policy was fair. Following the complaint by Mr C we had started to review the policy. That work was unfortunately delayed during the pandemic.

'Taking account of the Ombudsman’s views and a recent court case involving another local authority, we accept that this review must be brought forward quickly. We are reviewing the report alongside the court judgement. We have arranged for the council’s cabinet to consider a report on the charging policy at its meeting on 26 July, when it will be asked to approve a 12-week public consultation on a new charging policy.

'The results of the consultation will be reported to the cabinet before the end of the year, when it will be asked to approve a new charging policy that can be seen to be fair. We will ensure that changes to our charges are applied retrospectively for any people who are in the same position to the complainants.'

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