A 100-year-old great-grandmother faced an uncertain Christmas after being threatened with court action over a nursing home bill.
East Sussex County Council was described as “heartless” for warning Violet Davies, who is deaf and blind, she might be taken to court on Christmas Eve.
It had said she owed more than £9,000 in fees for her care at a home in Polegate.
But with only £3,000 in the bank, Mrs Davies was unable to pay.
Her son, Les Davies, 71, from Seaford, said he had repeatedly tried to explain to officials that neither can afford the sum. He described the council as “heartless”.
On December 9, the council gave the widow two weeks to pay or face court action. The letter said, “In the event that you do not respond within 14 days of the date of this letter we are instructed to issue proceedings, without notice, in the County Court. Any such claim will incur further costs and interest.”
By 2003 Mrs Davies’s sight and hearing had become so poor that she was no longer able to live alone. Mr Davies estimates that he has since spent more than £120,000 on her care. In April last year he was diagnosed with cancer, He reluctantly decided to find his mother a home in January.
Local MP Norman Baker reacted with anger to the news the county council was threatening court action in the dispute over care home fees at Queensmead, Polegate.
He said, “Whoever decided to pursue this action in this way should be ashamed of themselves. If there is a dispute about monies owing, that should be pursued with the lady’s relatives in a sensible and non-confrontational way.
“To hold out the prospect of a court hearing of any sort on Christmas Eve smacks of a lack of consideration at best. To do so when the person in question is 100, and unwell, is callous beyond belief.
“On the basis of the information I have seen, there is even a question mark over whether any money is actually owed, given that her savings are now close to zero.
“I have today [Monday] contacted the council demanding they withdraw this threat of court action and arrange instead to sit down with my constituent’s relatives in January to iron matters out sensibly.”
A spokesman for East Sussex County Council said, “We would never evict someone from their home and will always make sure they are cared for.
“We have attempted to carry out a financial assessment in this case, but the information requested has not been provided to enable us to complete this and determine if the client is able to pay for their own care. Therefore, we have good grounds to believe that this person has the resources to pay for their care and have kept the client fully informed.
“However, we are happy to work with the family if they believe this assessment is wrong and can provide the necessary information.
“Without charging people that can afford to pay, we would have considerably less money to spend on services. We would always discuss and explain charges before clients accept help from a service.”