Council says it is being more proactive to fairly recover £6.6m of adult social care debt

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Bedford Borough Council’s adult social care debt is £6.6 million pounds – but the council has been more proactive over the last year to ensure the money comes in.

A report on Irrecoverable Debt was presented to the Budget & Corporate Services Overview & Scrutiny Committee (Thursday, May 26).

“With regards to the secure debt, we have been looking more proactively in the past 12 months at things that we can do to help make sure the money comes in,” said Jill Evans, chief finance officer at Bedford Borough Council.

“Firstly the adult social care board has reconvened.

“The idea of the board is that all the different parts of the council come together to talk about certain cases to try to move them along.

“Both to be fair both to the council and also to the person involved.

“Because ultimately when this action is taken often the debt continues just to increase and increase, and that’s not fair on an individual.

“The second thing we’ve been doing is to look in a more timely fashion at outstanding debts,” she said.

As an example, Ms Evans said if there is a secured debt and if the council doesn’t act within six months of that person dying it can be difficult if the assets have already been distributed amongst the family.

“Although we can still seek to recover the money afterwards,” she said.

A few examples were presented to the committee, which led the committee chair, councillor Stephen Moon (Conservative, Great Barford Ward) to ask why some debts reach “quite eye-watering figures”.

Ms Evans replied: “It doesn’t take very long for the debts to accrue to very, very substantial amounts.

“The reality is that the financial assessment often takes quite a long time to conclude.

“Then it gets passed to my team and then we start collecting the debt.

“When we try to get a solicitor in place [to help the resident] that takes three to nine months.

“All these things do move quite slowly, and unfortunately adult social care is very expensive.

“It doesn’t take long for the debts to mount up,” she said.

by John Guinn
Local Democracy Reporter
Additional reporting by Erica Roffe