Wigan man locked in bitter council dispute over his mum’s care

A Wigan man is at loggerheads with the council in an increasingly high-stakes dispute over paying for his elderly mother’s home care.

Friday, 22nd March 2019, 1:02 pm
Updated Friday, 22nd March 2019, 2:08 pm
Rodney Wright looking after his mum Ellen at the house they share in Swinley

Rodney Wright, from Swinley, says the town hall mistakenly calculated the assets his frail mum Ellen had and have since pursued him for eye-watering bills for being looked after by carers.

The dispute has escalated, with talks for Mrs Wright and her son to move to a more suitable house falling through and social workers asking police to visit their address on Warnford Street.

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However, the local authority insists Mrs Wright was previously over the financial threshold for paying for her own care but now is not, leading to concern about where the money has gone.

Mr Wright, though, is adamant his mother never had the assets in the first place and has hit out at what he says is a stubborn refusal to acknowledge errors at the local authority.

Wigan MP Lisa Nandy has also been requested to get involved in the case.

Mr Wright, 57, said: “We filled the financial forms out which said mum’s assets were well below the payment threshold and didn’t hear anything back.

“Then the social worker told us we had a pile of bills we should be paying because we didn’t get funding. We were told we owe an entire year’s care costing £35,000.

“Wigan Council has basically ignored the figures I sent and have just created some of their own. They turned round and said we had £23,500 in the bank when the correct figure was about £2,000.

“How did they make that out? They are working on false premises.

“I feel some of the things they have done have been really under-handed.

“Around March last year I started receiving phone calls from the council saying they were going to take the house off us. They sent the police round saying I was abusing my mum.

“They’ve not been using the correct figures and have still not got them right, yet things have just got crazier and crazier.”

Wigan Council, though, strongly denies Mr Wright’s claims and has issued a robust defence of its actions, saying it had reason to believe the authorities needed to act.

It says Mr Wright agreed to pay for the care for his mum but then did not do so, whereas he claims he believed there was no need to pay and was then told he owed an entire year of care.

Mrs Wright, who is now 90 and suffers from dementia, has been at her Swinley home with a robust care package of professionals visiting multiple times a day provided by CareWatch since March 2017.

Her condition worsened dramatically last year following a period of respite care and she is now bedridden.

As the dispute has gone on Mr Wright and the local authority have repeatedly found themselves clashing.

Discussions began about moving to a property better equipped for caring but this fell through due to the financial question marks over the situation in August 2018, with Mr Wright saying it was blocked by the town hall.

Mr Wright says he was also dissuaded from getting power of attorney over his mother’s financial affairs only to then find the council attempting to do the same thing later on.

However, the council says it felt the need to take this step as the gap in the payments suggested her interests needed taking care of.

In an attempt to move forward Mr Wright claims he offered to set up a payment plan for his mum’s care earlier this year but was rebuffed, with the local authority saying it still needed to go for power of attorney.

The council says Mrs Wright was unable to make decisions such as moving house herself and her son did not have legal powers to start that process himself.

Sharon Barber, director for community services, said: “We have been working with the family and have been supporting Mrs Wright with her care since May 2016.

“Our number one priority is to ensure Mrs Wright gets the best care and support she needs.

“A robust package of care to support Mrs Wright and her family was agreed and Mr Wright was fully aware of the package.

“When we have safeguarding concerns or financial concerns we will take further actions to resolve these, particularly when we feel that people under our care don’t have the capacity to make these decision themselves.

“We have offered to meet with the family on numerous occasions, and would still like them to take up this offer.”

Mr Wright says he intends to take the continued problems with the town hall to the Local Government and Social Care Ombudsman.

The watchdog was previously contacted but told Mr Wright it could not act as he had not exhausted the council’s complaints procedure.

Wigan MP Lisa Nandy has been involved around a year.

She said: “We have been helping Mr Wright regarding this issue and will continue to assist him in any way we can.”

Mr Wright spoke of the toll battling to sort out the problems have taken.

He said: “We’re just in limbo, waiting to see what they are going to do next.

“I was running a business I could do around looking after my mum and that has gone to the wall and won’t reappear.

“It’s the system that is at fault. I know it’s hard for the council because there have been cuts in local government budgets and they are under pressure but that’s no reason to do what they’ve done.”