Wandsworth Woman Overcharged by Thousands for Home Care

Care company used by council had lost records after cyberattack

Wandsworth Council Customer Services Centre

August 14, 2023

A mother from Wandsworth was wrongly charged more than £1,400 for home care while she was staying in hospital, and recovering afterwards, after invoicing blunders from her council and care provider. Wandsworth Council has been ordered to pay the woman’s son £500 after a watchdog investigation found faults in the invoicing for her care in 2022.

The man, named Mr D in the Local Government and Social Care Ombudsman report, complained the council repeatedly failed to invoice him for his mum’s home care between January and July 2022, then from July to December 2022. He said he could not keep track of the charges – leading to his mum, referred to as Mrs J, being overcharged.

The council said the care provider was the victim of a cyberattack and had lost data on carers’ visits between January 1 to September 16, 2022. The ombudsman found there had been problems with invoicing by the care provider during 2022, but that it had seen no evidence about what these problems were or of discussions with the care provider to ensure improvement.

Mrs J pays for care at home arranged by the council, which charges her a weekly arrangement fee, and invoices Mr D after the care provider has sent the invoice. The care provider had been providing itemised invoices, breaking down the charges, since 2020.

But the care provider stopped sending a breakdown of the charges in January 2022. The council then issued the invoices for February and March late. Mrs J was admitted to hospital in June.

Mr D complained in July that the invoices were late and he had not received breakdowns of the charges. The council sent him a breakdown of the charges from November 2021 to June 2022 and he found some mistakes.

The council asked the care provider to send the breakdowns to Mr D but no invoices for Mrs J’s care were issued in September and October 2022. An invoice was issued in November for the outstanding months, but it did not include September. The council sent Mr D a further breakdown in December.

After Mr D complained, according to the report, the council told him it would refund Mrs J around £1,480 for care costs and arrangement fees she had been “wrongly charged for” while she was in hospital, and for a recovery period afterwards.

Mr D also overpaid £1,532 after the council sent an invoice for Mrs J’s care between December 19 to January 15, which did not show payments that had already been made. The report said: “There have clearly been problems with invoicing by the care provider during 2022, which is fault. This has caused Mr D frustration and significant inconvenience.

“I have seen no evidence about what these problems were or of any discussions the quality assurance team were having with the care provider to ensure improvement. This is fault. Officers should have escalated the matter in July 2022 and fed back to Mr D about how the problems would be resolved.

“In response to my enquiries, the council said the care provider had suffered a cyberattack and no longer had the data on carers’ visits for the period 1 January 2022 to 16 September 2022.”

The ombudsman ordered the council to pay Mr D £500 to “remedy the distress caused by fault in invoicing”, and to agree solutions with the care provider.

A Wandsworth Council spokesperson said, “These problems were essentially caused by difficulties in obtaining correct invoices from the care provider, but we accept there was more we could have done to resolve these issues by challenging the provider more robustly to ensure its invoices were not only correct but issued in a timely fashion. We therefore accept the ombudsman’s findings and recommendations.”

Charlotte Lillywhite - Local Democracy Reporter