Lambeth Council has been criticised for wrongly demanding £36,000 from a seriously ill man to pay for his care home.
The authority sent a letter to the sister of the unnamed man, known as Mr D, threatening legal action if the money wasn’t received.
But they had failed to complete a financial assessment to check how much of his care costs he could afford to cover.
The oversight meant the man was billed more than he should have been.
The local government ombudsman – which regulates councils – criticised Lambeth for “serious” failings.
It ordered the council to apologise to the man’s sister, known as Miss F, and pay her £500 in compensation for the distress its errors caused her.
An ombudsman report from March 24 said: “The council fully acknowledges it failed to send invoices for Mr D’s care to Miss F over a lengthy period.
“Despite entering care in 2016, the council did not issue an invoice until December 2020.
“When Miss F received invoices, they were wholly inaccurate due to the council’s failure to complete a financial assessment. This resulted in the council billing Mr D for approximately £36,000.
“I consider the council’s failings have been serious, longstanding and indicative of wholesale service failure and poor administrative practice.
“These serious issues have placed unfair pressures on Miss F, who has ultimately had to spend excessive time correcting the council and trying to ensure it provides a satisfactory level of service.”
Lambeth agreed to stop trying to collect the £36,000 from Mr D for care costs in 2021, after Miss F complained to the authority directly.
It acknowledged its mistake and promised to send Mr D’s sister accurate invoices every month.
But Miss F complained to the ombudsman that these invoices stopped arriving after June 2021.
Lambeth disputed this but then backtracked, admitting to the ombudsman that November and December 2021 invoices for Mr D’s care costs weren’t sent to Miss F.
Lambeth Council said: “This has been a complex case and Lambeth has acknowledged the failings in the service we provided to this resident.
“We of course fully accept the Ombudsman’s finding, and their ruling in this case.
“The council has apologised for the distress caused and, in line with the Ombudsman’s findings, we have agreed to pay Miss F compensation.
“Lambeth will review our policies and practices with respect to sharing care reviews, conducting financial assessments in a reasonable time, and issuing invoices at regular intervals.
“We are working with the Ombudsman to ensure that our services continue to improve for all our residents.”
Pictured top: Lambeth town hall