A reader has been in touch with a terrible problem: her generosity and love for her mother looks set to cost her her home. The reader, we can call her Clare, went to live with her mother, who has dementia. She was taking over from her brother, who had lived with their mother for years but was no longer able to cope with her condition. Clare gave up her own home and had nowhere else to go.
Although Clare devoted herself to caring for her mother, the old lady deteriorated and in less than two years, she was no longer able to remain at home. She had to go to a specialist care home for people living with dementia. It was not what Clare wanted, she had done her best to care for her mother at home but, despite having all the living aids - hoists etc - she was no longer able to cope.
Since her mother owned the house, the local authority said Clare had to pay for the care. Under the rules, the authority said, the care would only be free if a spouse or a dependent minor were living in the house - or another relative over ages 60. Clare was 57 at the time, so she had to make contributions for her mother's care, unless the council chose to waive the fees - they did not.
The trouble was, after about six months, Clare developed an aggressive form of cancer and was no longer able to work or to make the contribution. It was then that the local authority started to cut up rough. OK, they said, you don't have to contribute now, but when your mother dies, the house will have to be sold and we will take our money.
Clare was unwell, alone and scared. She didn't know what the situation was with regard to the contribution and felt bullied by the local authority into signing an agreement to pay them out of the proceeds of the house.
Clare's cancer treatment was long and arduous. But, after nearly two years, she was given the all clear. Soon after that, she was 60 and was no longer liable to pay for her mother's care. However, that still left more than two years' worth of contributions to be made - once Clare's mother died. It amounted to more than £50,000 - money Clare simply didn't have, without selling the house.
It seems Clare will lose both her mother and her home at the same time. However, it doesn't have to be like that, OLM has discovered.
Clare should not have to pay for care during the time of her illness at all - under a mandatory fees waiver - which would substantially reduce the amount of money she 'owes'. In addition, the local authority could give allow a voluntary waiver to cover the rest of the fees - if they chose to do so. They do not. And the local authority refuses to accept that Clare is entitled to a mandatory waiver for her illness and treatment - although she is.
Sadly, Clare is going to have a hard fight to force the council to accept that she is entitled to the waiver. She will probably have to employ a lawyer to handle the case.
Some readers may feel that families should not 'escape' payment for care. Others may feel that Clare is being unfairly penalised. But, the fact is, the local authority is ignoring the rules as they stand - which mean that Clare is entitled to a waiver on the fees for the time of her illness. It is not discretionary, it is mandatory - and the council is completely wrong to be trying to force her into making payments they know to be incorrectly levied.
The trouble is Clare, like so many other people, relies on the local authority to act fairly and advise her properly.