Home help refund talks ‘unresolved’

TALKS aimed at recovering about £117,000 from an agency which “over charged” the council for home helps have still not been resolved.

The Courier reported in July how a contractor was overpaid by about 17.5 per cent last year because Calderdale Council’s monitoring systems were not up to scratch.

A confidential update on the recovery process was given to a closed meeting of the council’s audit committee.

Chairman Peter Wardhaugh said: “The talks are ongoing but we expect a positive outcome pretty soon.”

He said he would make a full statement about the issue in due course.

Council officers have promised to introduce electronic monitoring systems and spot checks to try to eliminate some of the more questionable practices

About £5 million a year is paid to six companies and organisations to provide home care for about 1,200 elderly and vulnerable people.

A detailed investigation showed that the actual time some helpers spent with people was “often significantly less than contracted and paid for due to missed visits or visits shorter than contracted for.”

The council paid the biggest firm £783,000 but it should have been £137,000 less, the audit committee was told.

It was eventually decided to reclaim £117,000 - money which is still outstanding.

When home care workers visit people, the time they stay with clients is rounded up to the next quarter of an hour so that a 16 minute visit can cost the council a 30 minute payment.

Auditors concluded that there could be safeguarding implications from failing to give people the full service which the council was paying for.

The audit committee was told that procedures and processes had been tightened.

“I am satisfied with the swift action which has been taken,” said Coun Wardhaugh (Lib-Dem, Greetland and Stainland).