Elderly Warned To Take Care

Unwitting pensioners who take up council grants may find that their carer has a claim on their estate at death. This is the worry of one councillor. As Bedfordshire on Sunday reported last week, a grant system run by Bedfordshire County Council means that elderly recipients are unknowingly becoming the employers of their own carers.

Bedfordshire on Sunday can now report that the county council has also paid out several thousand pounds to settle a case in which an elderly woman was sued by her carer for unfair dismissal.

The problem lies in the council’s care grants, which are meant to empower ‘customers’ by allowing them to run their own care budget and hire their own carers on the open market. The side-effect of this is that any pensioner taking up the council’s offer becomes the legal employer of their carer.

Last week, Cllr Duncan Ross told a council meeting that he had heard of a Nottingham pensioner who had been sued for unfair dismissal after taking a dislike to her carer. He told colleagues: “If we are going to do something like this, we need to make sure that people know what it is they are getting in to.” Cllr Ross hoped that his concerns would go forward to be raised at the monthly meeting of the council’s executive.

After the meeting he learned his concerns had not even been recorded in the minutes. He raised the matter with council officers only to be told that the officer who compiled the minutes had not thought it worth recording.

After Cllr Ross protested, the item was added to the minutes. Cllr Ross said: “Pensioners who buy into this scheme are going to find themselves legally liable for all sorts of things they’d never even think about, including risk assessment and health and safety for their carers. The most incredible thing is that if an elderly person dies while they employ a carer, that carer will have a claim for redundancy against the estate of their dead employer.”

Cllr Ross explained that he has now learned that one Bedfordshire woman has had a claim for unfair dismissal made against her by her former carer, which the council has settled. Cllr Ross said: “It’s madness. Total madness. A plan to help elderly people live independent lives has gone spectacularly wrong. What are we going to do about it?” Cllr Bob King, cabinet member for community services, said: “Cllr Ross raises some important issues, and I hope that he is reassured by the measures that the county council has put in place to protect clients who choose to take direct payments.

“All our clients receive free independent advice through the Disability Resource Centre, and this includes advice on employment law. The direct payment provision itself is designed to cover all employment costs, and we are also in contact with our insurers to make sure that our insurance would cover any other costs that might arise.”