LBWF censured by an Ombudsman again, this time because it sent an invoice demanding £6,000 to a vulnerable resident…though when challenged admitted this was an ‘error’

Hardly a week goes by without someone from LBWF repeating the twin mantras that ‘Residents are at the heart of everything we do’, and ‘We are determined to be a Council that listens to and works for everyone’.

Regrettably, hardly a week goes by, either, without evidence emerging that, especially for anyone who is disadvantaged, these mantras are at best an aspiration for the future, at worst a disingenuous fiction. 

A new case adjudicated on by the Local Government and Social Care Ombudsman service (hereafter LGSCO) again proves the point.

Mr. X is an adult with a learning disability who resides in supported living accommodation, and receives direct payments from LBWF to meet his assessed needs and make a contribution towards the cost of his care. 

Mr. X receives help over his finances from the facility’s staff, and also his brother, Mr. A.

In May 2022, following changes to the benefits system, Mr. A complained to LBWF about the amount Mr. X was paying in social care charges, and this led to prolonged correspondence about the issues.

Then, in August 2022, and out of the blue, LBWF suddenly sent Mr. X an invoice for £6,000 to cover alleged overpayments.

This unsurprisingly led to further correspondence and meetings, and in October 2022 a LBWF complaints manager admitted that ‘it had been an error to send the invoice’ (which he attributed to an ‘error in the system’), and apologised.

However, he also pointed out that no money had changed hands because of the invoice, while though Mr. A. had gone to ‘some inevitable time and trouble’ in righting the wrong, this was ‘not above and beyond what might be considered usual’, so no compensation would be paid for the distress which had been caused.

 That led Mr. A. to complain to the LGSCO.

So what does the LGSCO now determine?

It notes LBWF’s admission that ‘an incorrect invoice was sent’, and the apology which followed. On the other hand, it finds that LBWF was at fault, and had ‘caused some injustice in terms of worry and anxiety to Mr. X’.

Accordingly, the LGSCO now instructs LBWF to pay Mr. X £300 compensation.

From all of this, then, we learn that

(a) LBWF uses a financial system which coughs up invoices for £6,000 at random, and without demure; and

(b) One of its complaints managers thinks it quite ‘usual’ that a family member of a vulnerable adult who LBWF supposedly supports should spent hours and hours of his own time trying to sort out Town Hall errors.

‘Residents are at the heart of everything we do’, and ‘We are determined to be a Council that listens to and works for everyone’, indeed.

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The Housing Ombudsman makes three findings of severe maladministration in cases involving London Borough of Waltham Forest

The Housing Ombudsman Service berates LBWF for its error-strewn response to a resident’s routine request for information

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