Milton Keynes Council apologises for charging family for respite care

A father whose severely disabled son was charged for respite care the family could not afford has received an apology from authorities.

Paul Ridley, 49, claims he was forced to choose between “respite or food” for his son Keith, 26, when he was charged out of the blue for his care.

Paul Ridley

Paul Ridley

The family had been using the service since 2006 when Paul had a heart attack brought on by the stress of their situation.

Keith, who is severely autistic, would attend a day care centre once a week and one weekend every month.

For eight years it was subsidised by Milton Keynes Council while Paul and wife Sarah, also 49, acted as full-time carers.

But they were “shocked” last July when they received a bill addressed to Keith demanding £71.57 for one weekend of respite.

Paul, from Wolverton, claims caused their son unnecessary stress and left them struggling to afford to feed themselves.

He contacted the Local Government Ombudsman for help and has now received an apology and £100 in compensation by Milton Keynes Council.

Paul said: “No-one gets a service without being told what they have to pay for it first. £71 was a lot and we could not prepare for it.

“Not sending him broke Keith’s routine and we had to pay the price for that. I was shocked by it.

“I just couldn’t believe it. I couldn’t believe they had charged him without even notifying us.”

The family now pay £6 a day for the respite service after discussions with the council and Paul says authorities lacked “common sense”.

He added: “The needs of the adults are not being taken into consideration. It is the principal of them not notifying us that is the biggest problem.

“Why should I have to go to the ombudsman to rectify this. I think there could be other people who would not like to fight this like we did.

“Somebody should have used a bit of common sense.”

The council originally decided to charge for respite care in February 2014 and wrote to carers to tell them of the plans.

But it did not tell them exactly what their contribution would be and did not state when the charges would be enforced.

The council have now apologised “unreservedly” and said they will write to all carers offering them a refund.

A spokesman said: “The council puts its hands up to this one - we made a mistake,” said a spokesman.

“We realise this has caused upset and confusion, and we apologise unreservedly not only to Mr Ridley, but anyone else who feels they were caught unawares by these changes.”

The Ombudsman said the council would have “to waive or refund contributions for respite breaks taken before it advised an estimated contribution”.

> See our video interview with Mr Ridley from last year.