May 13, 2022 10.10 am

Council bill blunder leaves Lincolnshire woman fearing respite costs

The council changed the fees after she booked

A Lincolnshire woman was left unwilling to book respite care for her husband after the county council changed its charge rates on her booking and sent her a series of invoices and final demands to pay.

The Local Government Ombudsman has told Lincolnshire County Council to pay the woman, known as Mrs X, £100 in compensation after finding fault in the way it informed her of changes to care home costs and delays in responding to her complaints.

A report described how when Mrs X organised two weeks of respite care for her husband in August 2020 it would be at a flat rate.

However, the council then told her that rate had stopped and a contribution was required, one which increased in November, after she had paid the care home.

LCC asked the care home to refund Mrs X as a “goodwill gesture”, however a letter informing her of this was never received.

A series of invoices followed until May 17 the following year when a final invoice showed the refund due – five months after it was originally decided.

“This delay meant that Mrs X was unwilling to book further respite care for her husband for almost a year, as she was not sure how much it would cost,” said the report.

The council later apologised for the delay and offered to pay for the respite care again as a further gesture of goodwill.

However, Mrs X said she was not satisfied with the response.

“Mrs X went to time and trouble chasing this up, and could not book further respite care which was frustrating,” said the report.

The Ombudsman said the fact Mrs X had not received the initial letter about the refund was not the fault of the council.

It said the council had acknowledged and apologised, adding any offence caused was “unintentional and regretful”.

However, it said she should have been informed of the changes in fees before she had arranged the care, and also found fault in the delay in responding to her complaints.

“As the bill was cancelled, the council should not have sent further invoices and final demands to Mrs X seeking payment,” the report added.

“This caused Mrs X distress, especially as she had not received the letter telling her of a refund.”

The inspector recommended that the council should pay £100 to Mrs X “in recognition of the injustice caused to her by the identified faults”.