Council criticised as man charged for care services he did not want or use

A Walsall man has been given no option but to live in an extra care housing scheme – and pay care charges for a service he neither used nor wanted, a Local Government Ombudsman (LGO) investigation has found.

The man, who is in his mid-sixties and has complex multiple health needs, contacted Walsall Metropolitan Borough Council in June 2011 as he needed to be re-housed.

He was being supported by a friend who provided him with all his personal care needs, but that friend was due to be away for three months from October 2011 and would not have been able to meet the man’s care needs.

Social workers at the council looked into housing options for the man, and recommended an extra care housing scheme, where the man would have to pay rent, a ‘well-being’ on-call service charge and on top of that a ‘personal care charge’.

The man complained that these charges were not explained properly to him, and said that the personal care fee was unfairly charged as he did not need it because his friend was providing him with the care he needed.

The man is still living in the extra care scheme, and has continued to be charged for care he does not receive or want.

Dr Jane Martin, Local Government Ombudsman, said: “This is not the first time I have asked Walsall council to reconsider its current charging structure for extra care housing schemes: the council has failed to carry out the remedy it agreed to in a previous complaint.

“The man in this case did not have any choice in the accommodation he could move to and the evidence suggests that the home he was given was never likely to be a good fit. I find that the council did not adequately consider alternative housing options for the man before placing him in extra care housing.

“The council did not adequately explain the charges to the man before he moved into the home, and I question whether it can ever be fair to ask someone to pay for personal care when they do not want to use the service.”

To remedy the situation, the LGO has recommended Walsall MBC waive all personal care charges accrued by the man and write off 50 per cent of accrued ‘well-being charges’ which cover the ‘on call’ care service provided by the extra care housing scheme.

The council should also offer to review the man’s housing needs and identify suitable alternative housing for him, while capping its care charges in the meantime.

The council should also review the current charging structure used by the housing scheme and review the information it gives to prospective tenants before they move.

The council has agreed to the LGO’s recommendations.