13p council care bill 'an insult' to our dead mum
TWO sisters have slammed Derby City Council for sending their late 92-year-old mother an invoice demanding she pay a 1p-a-week debt "immediately".
The council sent pensioner Winifred Coulson the bill nine days after she died – for a care service she was told was free.
Stamped in bold, capital letters across the invoice – which says Mrs Coulson owed 13p for receiving a care link service for 13 weeks – were the words: "PAYMENT DUE IMMEDIATELY".
The invoice went as far as outlining seven ways Mrs Coulson, who lived in Max Road, Chaddesden, could pay the 13p sum – including by post or standing order.
Daughters Trina Parkin, 67, and Trudy Fowler, 58, called it an "insult" to their late mother and are refusing to pay the bill on her behalf.
Mrs Parkin, a retired nurse, said: "The 13p charge is less than what it cost the council to post the letter.
"It's a ludicrous invoice."
Mrs Parkin said a Care Link remote monitoring system was installed by the council after Mrs Coulson became increasingly frail. It sets off an alarm when it detects no movement for a significant period of time.
But the family decided after a few weeks it was of little help because Mrs Coulson was largely bed-ridden anyway, and it was removed.
Mrs Parkin said: "It says she received the service for 13 weeks from October 24 to October 25.
"Anyone with a brain will tell you there is one day between those two dates – not 13 weeks.
"Added to that, our mother didn't even have the service for as long as 13 weeks because we decided in the end that she didn't need it.
"And we were told she was eligible to have it for free, so she shouldn't have been sent an invoice at all."
Mrs Parkin, of Spondon, added: "When I think of how many thousands of pounds we have saved the council by keeping our mother in her own home rather than put her in a care home, it makes me furious to think they are chasing her for 13p, even if she did owe it."
Asked whether she was tempted to pay the 13p to bring the matter to a close, Mrs Parkin said: "We're not paying it out of principle. The council can take us to court."
Mrs Fowler, who works at the Royal Derby Hospital as a nurse, added: "I don't think it even warrants a response. Right now I don't have the emotional energy to even ring up the council and complain about it.
"Why would anyone with a brain stamp that invoice and send it out?"
Incredibly, it is the second time the council has mistakenly sent out a wrong invoice to Mrs Coulson, who had dementia and died at the Royal Derby Hospital on December 1.
Mrs Fowler, who lives at Willington Marina, explained. "An invoice was sent to my mother in October, while she was alive, saying she owed £31.05 for being connected to the service for a nine-week period.
"We rang the council up and it said it had been sent by mistake as the service was free to my mother, and that we could ignore it."
Councillor Fareed Hussain, cabinet member for adults and health at Derby City Council, said the authority has now apologised to Mrs Coulson's family.
He said: "This letter was sent because of accounting error.
"Mrs Coulson was receiving a free service and should not have been sent a bill.
"Council officers are investigating the reasons for this mistake and will ensure it is not repeated.
"The council has now given a full apology to Mrs Fowler and her family for the distress that the letter caused".