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Arses and Elbows

December 21, 2013

This has been my week.

I came home from work last Saturday at lunchtime to find a court summons from Hillingdon for non payment of council tax for the period 1st November 2013 to 31st March 2014. Ironically, it arrived exactly 3 years on from the day I received Hillingdon’s care plan that they were submitting to the Court of Protection for the hearing on 21st December 2010. This is the care plan where they were planning to send Steven permanently to a hospital in Wales, under section. Most people send cards at Christmas – they send letters that threaten the very core of my life.

The bill totalled £479 and this included court costs of £125. Astute readers may realise that the 1st November (the date they say I defaulted from) may ring a few bells. This is the date we moved home and became Cowley men. My heart sank. In theory, it should have meant a simple phone call and everything sorted. But I know from experience that it would be a long, stressful slog.

On Monday morning I spent over an hour in conversation. It took half that time for any acknowledgement from them that I had notified them about the move. Eventually, they admitted that I had informed them three times and had made the final payment on 5th November. End of story? Not that simple. Whilst they acknowledged that I was now living elsewhere, they said they had to keep the account on the old flat open because I hadn’t proved that I had moved from there. How could I do that? A Polaroid of my carpet slippers under the new bed in the new house? Apparently, the final gas and electric bill wasn’t sufficient as proof but they couldn’t tell me what would be acceptable. Trade secrets?

I emailed Steven’s social worker and the housing manager who fixed up the move and asked them to intervene. To his great credit, the housing chap did and he sent me an email later that day to say the account on the old flat had been closed and that I’d receive a new bill if there was anything outstanding. No further action required.

I dont know why (past balls ups?) but I phoned them again yesterday to confirm what the manager had told me. It wasn’t that I didn’t trust him but I wanted something from the actual department dealing with the summons. The woman confirmed that my account was now closed but that I still owed £88.19. I asked her what that related to as I’d paid the bill right up to the day of our move. She announced that it was for “amended court costs”. That threw me – “But we’re not going to court. It was your error”, I suggested. She went to speak to her manager and told me that “under the circumstances we have decided to waive the court costs”. I think I was meant to express my gratitude at this point but something niggled me – “The costs were £125 the other day. What changed? £88.19 is a very specific figure”.

You can probably guess the tag line. “Actually, your account is £36.81 in credit Mr Neary – would you like the credit transferred to your new account?” We’d already had a long discussion about how the new account is in Steven’s name, so I asked for the money to be refunded directly to me. “Oh – that takes between 8 to 12 weeks to process. Have a nice day Mr Neary. Is there anything else I can help you with?”

In seven days, I’d gone from having to appear in court on 7th January for a debt of £479, to the council being in debt to me to the tune of £36.81. I didn’t feel quite in the right frame of mind to complete a short customer satisfaction survey!

Meanwhile, I’ve been trying to sort out Steven’s “mentally impaired discount” on the new house. Everything I’ve provided has been rejected: his DLA letter; the last letter from the psychiatrist; my deputy order from the CoP. I even cheekily sent the first two pages of Justice Jackson’s judgement that covered the nature of Steven’s disability. None of that is sufficient proof. Like the situation with my council tax, I got the social worker to intervene, which thankfully she did, and all of a sudden, the matter is resolved. Or it will be – these discounts take between 8 to 12 weeks to assess. So in the meantime they expect Steven to pay the full amount. Cheers.

One thing that strikes me is the Bubble. Both problems needed internal input to resolve – nobody from the outside world was trusted. It must be horrid to go to work every day knowing that you’re not going to trust a soul you speak to from the outside world. But within the Bubble, everyone is safe and comfortable.

It’s all a bit balls really.


From → Social Care

  1. Kay permalink

    Send them an itemised invoice for the time it’s taken (at your professional rates) for you to correct their errors? If nothing else, at least it’ll put a nice spanner in their works?


  2. Weary Mother permalink

    Relevant contemporary issue alert.
    I would value a bit of advice. It is is broadly in the context above Mark, eg that we are always on the wrong side of everything. If there is a whisker of evidence that we may have messed up we get jumped on immediately, from a very great height. If the reverse happens, even though the mess up by the LA etc is flashing like the bell light house at night, for months.. it could not possibly be so. Or ‘we cannot do anything’, is the response. (The other one when pushed is ‘the baby died but we have learned….etc’)

    Treading carefully here, we learned that an agency carer has over a long time done very bad things while caring for our family member. Had they been caught once they would be in court, and because they did the bad/illegal things repeatedly – and if they had been caught repeatedly, they would now be doing time; add to this all the other very bad but not illegal things that they did for a long time……, if we did them to our sons and daughters we would be in very BIG trouble and our sons and daughters would be living elsewhere? (And potentially us – interned the ‘big house!)

    The LA have investigated and we got a letter. These are are indeed very bad things ” very serious issues”, but ”we cannot make the agency sack an employee” ”a person not employed by us”..

    This person who did the very bad things, ‘ is being ‘carefully monitored’ but is still employed working with vulnerable people. This agency is commissioned by the LA…

    Surely that decision is not right? Or am I just wrong,unfair or cynical……. again?

  3. Barbara permalink

    Wow, thank you for sharing your experiences. My partner forwarded me your blog and I really feel for you. When you get caught up in such bureaucracy you tend to think it’s just you who has mishandled things (or I do), and what you have written exemplifies how this is not the case and shows the lunacy and lack of care from services who are supposed to support you. Good luck to you and your son – you must be an incredibly strong person.

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