Choice and Top ups - A systemic fault

Local Government Ombudsman finds systemic fault in council’s charging policy during a case where the family was only presented with one option – to pay a top-up fee – and no further details about their rights... Michael King, Local Government and Social Care Ombudsman said:

Families can only make proper informed decisions about their relatives’ care if they are given the correct information.

People have a right to choose where they live, but this comes at a price. Someone has to pay. The Care Act 2014 provides a legal framework for choice of accommodation as this case highlights but with individuals and families relying on care professionals who often provide a guided choice (or lack of it), censored information is not the route to sustainable, affordable care.

We cannot continue to divorce the care need from the cost and it is unfair to expect our care professionals or general 'later life' advisers to have this care funding expertise. A lack of specialist care funding knowledge is leading to unsustainable care choices, people paying when they shouldn't, or and making ill informed decisions and paying too much then running out of money and falling back to the Local Authority with great expectations.

It is no surprise that many face a move in the longer term or remain in Hospital while the multi disciplines liase, with family playing piggy in the middle and go between, feeling pressured and overwhelmed. Individuals, families, carers and professionals need a link worker, someone who understands care funding and works with other professionals to provide a local joined up service to avoid 'signposting' chaos and disengagement.

What people need when they are faced with potentially life changing decisions is support, hands on support, they want to talk to someone who can help them make sense of it all. Adult Social Care workers and Health teams have a specific remit and already overstretched, financial advisers are valuable but not everyone needs them and general advisers do not have the expertise to perform this specialist role.

This is an opportunity to save money with a consistent approach to care advice, so that real people can make affordable, appropriate care choices that suit them and get or keep them out of hospital. Surely it must be considered as a National approach rather than relying on the range of fragmented services that are emerging because the ageing population makes commercial sense.


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