The local government Ombudsman has found in favour of a grandmother who was being wrongly pressurised by Northamptonshire County Council to repay caring allowances.
The woman has been providing dedicated care for her three grandchildren, two of whom have complex needs.
The Ombudsman found a litany of mistakes in the way the Tory-controlled council had treated the woman including:
- Mismanagement of her allowances
- Failure to review the allowances for two years
- Wrongly taking her to a case conference
- Lack of information about how the woman’s allowances were calculated or what was due to her
As a result of the mismanagement, the Council ended up making duplicate payments that were not detected for two years. The Council then demanded the woman repay £11,000 – despite her acute financial difficulties.
The Ombudsman ordered the Council to apologise to the woman, write of the £11,000 and conduct a new review of her allowances.
Sally Keeble said: “The Ombudsman’s decision is very good news for this woman and her family. It is the culmination of very longstanding efforts to get the Council to behave with more compassion and justice to this vulnerable family. I hope that now things will improve for them.
“On a wider level, the Ombudsman’s report paints a picture of a department in chaos, with a lack of proper procedures for these allowances and no paper trail of payments made. If other people have had similar problems, of the Council pressing them to pay back alleged overpayments, I would be very interested to hear from them.”