An ombudsman has upheld a complaint from a man in his 80s who was charged for home care services by Trafford Council without his agreement.

The authority also failed to carry out a financial assessment of the man, ‘Mr X’, and continued to send him invoices for care services he had cancelled.

The Local Government and Social Care Ombudsman said the council had agreed to apologise, cancel all outstanding care charges, make a symbolic payment and review its practices.

Relevant law says that councils can charge for care and support services they provide or arrange, but that they must assess a person’s finances to decide what contribution they should make.

Authorities must make sure there is enough information available to ensure the person needing care can understand any contributions they are asked to make.

In June 2021, the elderly man was admitted to hospital after a fall. In order to enable him to continue living at home independently the council arranged a period of short-term ‘reablement’ care at home provided by an agency. 

This was provided at no cost to Mr X for three weeks. His son-in-law, Mr P, said Mr X made it clear from the start that he did not want to receive care he had to pay for.

Mr X was discharged back home in July 2021. Two weeks later, a care review took place, conducted over the phone during which Mr X agreed to a financial assessment.

The council said Mr X was sent a financial assessment form to complete and emailed Mr X’s daughter, Mrs P, with a copy of a relevant factsheet and confirmation that the care package would become chargeable after three weeks.

The council said Mr X did not complete the financial assessment form so he was sent a letter stating he would therefore be charged the full cost of any care services received unless he provided his bank account and pension details.

However, Mr P said that Mr X did not receive either the financial assessment form or letter, nor did Mrs P receive the email or factsheet.

Mr X was charged the full cost of care services from August 23 2021.

In October 2021, Mr X received two invoices for care charges of £363 and £874. Mr P said this was the first time he became aware Mr X was being charged for his care. Mr X immediately cancelled the care package.

Mr X continued to be charged for care until April 2022.

The Ombudsman’s report said: “The council accepted there was an error and cancelled the charges that had accrued since Mr X cancelled the care package. This was because the council was not told by the care provider it was no longer providing services.

“The council has established this was due to a communication error with the care agency.”

The elderly man complained to the council and while his complaint about continuing to receive invoices was upheld, the rest of his grievances were not.

The Ombudsman said that he was ‘satisfied’ that the council sent Mrs P an email with the financial assessment form for her father.

However, he went on: “The council says Mr X failed to complete the financial assessment and it was justified in charging the full cost [of the care]. In making this claim, it has relied on a letter sent to Mr X on July 23 2021. Mr P says Mr X did not receive this letter.

“In my view, the chronology from the case notes casts doubt over whether this letter was sent.”

He said the council had produced an uncompleted, undated financial assessment form, adding: “I have seen no evidence that this was sent to Mr X and is a likely explanation as to why it was not completed.

“Overall, I am satisfied on the evidence I have seen, that the council did not properly advise Mr X of his liability to pay the full cost of his care package or attempt to carry out a financial assessment. This was fault.

“There was further fault when Mr X continued to receive invoices for ongoing care up to April 2022.”

The council has agreed to apologise in writing to Mr X, pay him £100 as a symbolic payment to acknowledge his distress caused by the council’s fault and reflect on issues raised in the ruling and identify areas for service improvement.