By Kirsty Topping
BUNGLING council chiefs sent a woman a letter telling her that her mother was dead and demanding care home fees – even though the lady in question was very much alive.
Jean Bedborough was deeply shocked to get the abrupt message from Fife Council that her 90-year-old mother had passed away.
The same curt letter said she owed 200 towards her mother’s stay at Bandrum Nursing Home in Saline.
Once Jean had made sure her mother, Marion McLeod, was safe and well, she made an angry complaint to the council.
But officials then made a mess of the apology, repeating the request for fees before expressing their regret at the initial letter.
The letter, from Fife Council’s social work department, said: “I was sorry to hear about the recent death of your mother, Marion McLeod, and would like to pass on my sincere condolences. It is now necessary to conclude the financial details of Marion McLeod’s stay at Bandrum.”
Jean, from Dunfermline, complained: “It was put so abruptly. In the same sentence that they said they were sorry about her death they said I owed them X amount of pounds for care costs and it should have been settled at the end of the month.
“It was very distressing for the family. “
Jean’s initial shock at receiving the letter was reduced when she remembered she had visited her mother the previous day and it was virtually impossible to have been notified of her death in writing.
But worse was to follow when the council tried to apologise for the initial mistake.
She said: “I got a letter of apology but it took a couple of days to come.
“It was upsetting. What annoyed me is they started talking about money first before they mentioned an apology.”
“apology’ letter began: “A letter was sent on April 18 requesting final balance for your mother’s care costs. This letter stated in error that you mother had passed away.
“It should have stated that her contract had been changed from a Deferred Payment to Free Personal and Nursing Care Allowance.”
Mrs Bedborugh said she had still not been told why the blunder had been allowed to happen.
She continued: “I asked if letters are double-checked before they are sent out but I didn’t get much response. I’ve still had no explanation as to why the mistake has been made.
“It’s unbelievable. Everybody I tell about it just looks at me with their mouth open. If they are doing that with letters what about the financial side of it? You’re left wondering if you’re getting the correct information there.”
Service manager with Fife Council’s social work department, Joanna Tait, said: “We wrote to Mrs Bedborough on April 18 about a matter relating to her mother’s care.
“Unfortunately the wrong standard letter was used and we apologise unreservedly for any distress caused.
“As soon as we became aware of the error during a conversation with Mrs Bedborough on April 20 we apologised and followed this up with a letter reiterating our apology for this regrettable incident.”