Hundreds of elderly people across Sheffield could have been overcharged for care visits for years in a council bungle.
One grandmother is being refunded £1,024 by the council after her family discovered she was invoiced over two years for 20- or 30-minute care visits – when in reality carers sometimes stayed for a fraction of that time.
The council has now apologised – and is looking into the records of around 450 other people who may have been affected.
But Linda Moss, the daughter of the 80-year-old widow from Intake, said: “They have been overcharging elderly residents for care and haven’t done anything about it for years. I’ve been told it could affect 450 people – but how many old people might have died with money owing to them? A lot of elderly people have no idea how long their carers are there.
“They have refunded my mother £1,000. On some occasions the carer was there for just 10 minutes, but my mother was still charged for the full time.”
When carers arrive and leave the homes of elderly patients who require help, such as with dressing, eating and washing, they must clock in and out on timesheets.
But Sheffield Council failed to match the accurate times given by care providers to the charges then billed to residents.
The problem was caused because the authority did not have a system which could reconcile the payments to care providers with the invoices sent to residents.
Linda’s mother started receiving care in July 2012, but her family did not discover the overcharging until June 2013 when they asked to see the timesheets.
But despite repeated queries they did not start getting a refund until January.
Linda’s mother’s service package account is now having to be settled manually, on a monthly basis.
Linda said: “My mother is fine, but this is now almost a personal crusade for me. I want the council to pay these people back. There must be so many people affected.”
The council said extra staff have been taken on to work ‘solely on ensuring that all service users have paid the right amount for their care’.
A spokesman added: “We would like to apologise to Ms Moss’ mother, and others who may have been affected by this system error.
“We are aware of this issue and have since put new procedures in place to ensure a mistake such as this cannot happen again.
“As soon as we became aware of the problem we addressed it, and have been working since to rectify any other errors that may have been made.
“Service users do not need to contact us to ensure they have paid the right amount.
“We are proactively checking all the records of those who may have been affected, and will be in touch with them in due course.”
n Ring the Social Care Account Service on 0114 273 6717 with any concerns.