West Sussex slams pensioners with bills

The County Council in West Sussex has given bills to more than 500 elderly and vulnerable people after a computer error meant that they had been undercharged for care.

People who are reliant upon care received bills lower than they ought to have been, so they have been ‘topped up’ with additional bills totalling £480,000 meaning an average additional charge of just under £1000 per person.

One Midhurst resident was billed for £937 unexpectedly this week. He is a 68 year old man suffering from multiple sclerosis. Confined to his wheelchair and reliant upon his live-in carer, he said that he was shocked. He simply does not have the money available to pay off this bill, because he lives on a tight budget.

A common view is that because the county council made the mistake with the original bills they should pay for the care. In addition, the fact that the mistake is being blamed on a ‘computer glitch’ rather than an individual or department seems like a smoke screen.

A newspaper editor from the north agreed, saying that he spent a lot of his career as a journalist, and during that time he suspected that whenever ‘computer glitch’ was used as an excuse it meant that it was being invoked to hide the person responsible.

When the Midhurst resident received a letter in November mentioning that there had been problems with their new computers, he had phoned the council to ask what the consequences would be. They suggested to him that he wouldn’t be charged any extra. That clearly proved not to be the case however.

As a result of this, he will need to negotiate a low rate in order to pay the bill off over a course of years, thus increasing the monthly contribution he pays for his care.