Lincolnshire County Council has promised to make much needed changes to care home payments by next spring — five years after it was originally told to.
An independent watchdog has criticised the council for the delay in following its recommendations.
A Lincolnshire woman successfully complained about the council’s policy twice after she was forced to move her mother between care homes.
She said she should be able to pay top-up fees directly to the council, in line with the Care Act, rather than to care homes.
The Local Government & Social Care Ombudsman originally told the council to make the change in 2017.
It said this method of payment left families at the mercy of loved ones being evicted when they could no longer afford fees.
The council gave itself a deadline of July 2022 – but has missed this, and is now looking at completing the change by next spring instead.
It says the delay is “extremely disappointing” and has blamed workforce challenges.
The Lincolnshire woman was forced to complain a second time in 2020 after she was caused “significant uncertainty, distress and inconvenience” by the delay.
She had placed her mother in a care home at the council’s urging, despite her concern about being able to afford the fees.
Once she had sold her mother’s flat, she found herself unable to keep up with top-up fees and was forced to move her.
The council’s communication about fees was “poor and confusing”, with the daughter being sent three different sets of inaccurate figures with no explanation.
Her complaint was once again upheld by the Ombudsman, who said that the new arrangements should already have been put in place.
It told LCC to give the woman a formal apology and £600 for the trouble and distress she had experienced, which the council agreed to.
In a public report, the Ombudsman says that the council committed to making the changes by July – four and a half years after the original recommendation.
However, the council said that it will be early next year before the new payment arrangements are mostly in place.
Michael King, Local Government and Social Care Ombudsman, said: “While I welcome the council’s acceptance of my previous report, had it implemented the recommendations from my earlier investigations more promptly, the family might not have been failed a second time.
“Despite the council eventually agreeing to bring its payment arrangements in line with the Care Act and statutory guidance, it has still not implemented the changes. I urge the council to do so as a matter of urgency to ensure no other family is affected.”
Glen Garrod, Executive Director of Adult Care and Community Wellbeing, said: “We have made progress in transforming our systems and processes to enable us to improve how we support people in receipt of adult social care and providers of their care.
“Unfortunately, like many organisations, workforce challenges are causing delays with the implementation. The delays are extremely disappointing and have meant that we need to carry out a phased roll-out approach.
“We continue to work with people, their families and organisations involved, to enable us to prepare for a financially safe and secure transition to the new payment arrangements – with the intention for the majority of people in receipt of residential care to have transitioned by spring 2023.”