Council Says Sorry for Computer Mix-up

Elderly and disabled folk charged twice for home help

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Hammersmith and Fulham Council has said sorry for the anxiety caused to some of the borough's most vulnerable people by a computer error which has affected direct debit payments for home help.

The mix-up has resulted in many disabled and elderly people being charged twice for the service.

Councillor Antony Lillis, cabinet member for community and children’s services, blamed teething problems with the new payment system introduced by the council at the beginning of the year, and said: "We have contacted all those affected and are happy to come to an arrangement if they have problems paying as a result of this issue."

But HAFAD - Hammersmith and Fulham Action on Disability - is not satisfied with the explanation.

Spokesman Kevin Caulfield says: " If they insist on charging it must be done properly."

In January, the council brought in means-tested charges for home help, and said using direct debit would be simpler for people on fixed incomes as they would only be invoiced once a month in arrears.

HAFAD has launched an appeal against the legality of the charging system, and is now waiting for a decision from the High Court.

The council says that April payments were the only ones affected,  but others claim it has been going on since February. Phyllis Perlin, 93, who is chair of Hammersmith and Fulham Pensioners' forum says: " These types of errors cause great stress to elderly people, many of whom are scared stiff by the council and falling into debt. The system has been done the wrong way."

7th June 2009