Historic direct debits - thousands taken inappropriately

Hello. I’m wondering if anyone has had a similar experience or can offer advice - either moral or practical. I’m trying to work out if I should feel miffed, and if so from what point in time - and also whether I have any financial recourse.

About three years ago my elderly parents had a meal delivery service setup by social services - paid for by direct debit from my parents’ joint bank account. At the time mum lacked capacity, and within months dad was assessed the same. A few weeks after the deliveries began, social services organised for my vulnerable sibling, who lived with our parents, to also receive meals. But rather than setup a separate delivery account or direct debit, it’s emerged they just added his name to our parents’ account - so our parents were funding his meals.

Fast forward to summer 2019, and our parents moved into full-time residential care but my sibling (who has a financial appointee due to his own vulnerabilities around finances) to this day remains living at the property supported by adult social services. He still receives the same meal deliveries. Mum is still alive but dad died last year.

I have recently been appointed as mum’s lay deputy and have gained access to her bank accounts. I can see that the meals for my sibling have continued to be paid for by our parents’ account - a year and a half after they moved out of the property. Since then it’s cost £120 a week - so about £9,000 in total. Social services did not review how the meals were being paid for when our parents moved into care, and nor did the meal delivery company think to review the funding of the service.

Am I right to feel aggrieved? I think there was a duty of care missed somewhere along the line. If so, should it have been the responsibility of adult social services, the meal delivery company, or both to review payment?

Although I have now stopped the direct debit (after having had appropriate conversations with social services about meal provision), at the end of the day thousands of pounds have been taken from our parents’ account - simply because no one reviewed how my siblings meals were being paid for. Should I let this go or should I seek recompense?

I have looked into the direct debit guarantee, but I’m not convinced the payments have been taken fraudulently (maybe I am being naive here?). Social services aren’t admitting any liability and the meal delivery company can’t see they’ve done anything wrong - simply saying they had a direct debit instruction in place.

I don’t know whether I should feel mean pursuing this as it’s my brother who stands to lose at the end of the day - or justified in pursuing it as from my point of view there wasn’t sufficient duty of care taken. Any thoughts would be really welcome as I am feeling very confused.

Hi Michael

Yes it does sound complicated however what jumps out to me.

Who gave consent and sign that is was OK for your brother to be added to the delivery. If your brother was vulnerable (please give further info - lacks capacity too). Even if your brother didn’t lack capacity your parents. Would still need to sign a declaration of their consent.

Or have I missed something here. If there was lack of capacity then surely this is not moral or correct.

I think I would be requesting signed documents of the agreements.

Make “Subject Access Request” to Social Services, asking for copies of everything concerning your parents meal arrangements since they started to have them. They have 30 days in which to reply. Look at the council’s website for details of how to do this. Easy and straightforward.

Another thought. The council are supposed to conduct annual reviews, according to the Care Act. As all the people concerned were vulnerable, the duty of care was much higher. Have you made a formal complaint to the council. What has their response been, in writing??

Hi Michael

It sounds like a difficult situation for you.
I have attached a link to our complaints page on our website where you can find more information.


many thanks

I just want to say a massive thank you to everyone for taking the trouble to reply. It is greatly appreciated.

Each of you has given me some useful information that I will follow up on as time allows in the next few days.

Although the care part of my five year carer journey has ended - the admin, legal and moral bit that I am dealing with now is in many ways just as tough.

On the one hand I want the best for my brother as he is vulnerable and a lost soul in life. On the hand he has caused no end of complications, stress, pain and financial loss for me and my parents over many years.

Even though I try and pick my battles wisely, it is sometimes difficult to take a step back. So, thank you to all.

Try using the word “Ombudsman” and “failing to comply with their statutory duties”. My mum’s LA refunded £8,000 of wrongly charged fees. Work out how much each person should have paid, and ask for a specific amount with your workings. Only deal with the LA Complaints Officer now, not those who made the mistake. It took me ages to sort things out for mum, I do sympathise, this is not what you want to be doing.

I agree with Bowlingbun.
I ’ threatened’ ombudsman’ when I couldn’t get any satisfactory answers from a well-known credit card company. They were aware my husband was having difficulty in understanding,(dementia) but still upped his credit limit a few times. That word, made them sit up! I had most of the money repaid.
Finance companies have to pay a considerable fee to the ombudsman, before any investigation starts, which obviously they do not want.