"He never lived beyond his means": Tap above to watch video report by Sam Holder
A Second World War veteran with dementia was forced out of his nursing home after his local council failed to fund part of his care, prompting fears more residents have experienced similar problems.
John Lambert overpaid tens of thousands of pounds for care when his local authority, Merton Council in south-west London, should have been contributing to his fees.
When his savings were eaten up by the care home costs, which should have been part-funded by the council, officials repeatedly tried to move him to cheaper care homes.
The council had been told this would be “very unsettling” and traumatic for him and his relatives had said they would cover the difference in fees for the care he received between May and December 2020.
However, the council did not tell his family how much it would pay until August – by which time he was months in arrears and a few weeks away from being served an eviction notice by his care home.
His family used his remaining savings and state pension to pay off the debt but could not afford to continue paying for his care in full so Mr Lambert, a wheelchair user, moved into his daughter’s flat.
"It’s scandalous that at the heart of this is our 96-year-old dad, who never owed a penny in his life and did charity work until he was 90, and was never in debt," Jane Lambert said. "And Merton should be ashamed."
They brought a case against the council, supported by the RAF Benevolent Fund, and were later refunded more than £45,000 after an ombudsman ruled that the council had breached its duty of care to step in.
Merton Council said it accepted the findings and apologised to the family for the undue stress caused by its errors.
Jane Lambert said the family had felt “lost and frightened” and were “appalled” that the council wanted to move her father, who was frail, could not walk and had fallen four times in one month.
Mr Lambert joined the RAF in 1942 at the age of 18, serving until the end of the war in the Bomber Coastal Command, flying Lancaster bombers and Sunderland Flying Boats in North Africa, the North Atlantic and the Mediterranean.
He moved into his private care home in 2017 when he was 93, covering the then £1,400-a-week fees in full from the sale of the family home.
Under the current system, which is being reformed, when residents’ assets fall below £23,250 the council starts contributing to the cost of their care.
Ms Lambert said: “It was a nightmare. And I just worry about other families.
“If we had been without our advocate, Dad would have just been pushed off into another home and would probably have died from a broken heart.”
The Local Government and Social Care Ombudsman later ruled that Merton Council had failed to assess Mr Lambert’s needs, the risk of him moving, or agree a budget.
It said the council should refund Mr Lambert for the cost of his care, minus his share, apologise to the family and pay £400 for distress and time.
Mr Lambert lived with his daughter until August 2021, when he moved into a nursing home in Richmond for round-the-clock care, and died last November.
Correspondence suggests more residents have since experienced similar problems getting Merton Council to set out a timely personal budget.
A spokesman for the council said: “The council wishes to apologise again to the Lambert family for errors on its part and any undue stress caused as a result.
“As the article states, this case was dealt with via the Local Authority Ombudsman.
“The council accepted the findings and has put in place the agreed actions and recommendations of the ombudsman as a result.”