Siblings disgusted at council's demand for cash days after mother died

Grieving siblings have spoken of their shock at receiving an 'insensitive' debt-chasing letter from County Hall, just three days after their mum died.

Irene Kay
Irene Kay

Jonathan Kay and Kath Jebson’s mum Irene Kay had carers visit her Longton home for half an hour a day. Irene, 88, passed away on May 20 and Jonathan notified Lancashire County Council two days later.

He says he was “disgusted” to receive a letter, dated May 23, saying he was liable for his mum’s bill of about £120.

He said: “They are offering condolences and three lines later they are threatening me.”

County Hall has apologised but the siblings want bosses to review how they deal with bereaved families.

Jonathan, who cared for his mother at his Longton home, said: “It’s absolutely disgusting. These people seem to think they are unaccountable. It’s absolutely offensive to receive that.I have a question to ask. Where on earth is the common sense?”

Irene’s daughter Kath Jebson, of Lytham, said: “I don’t understand the reason for it at all. We contacted them.

“It’s very insensitive and very upsetting at a time like this when people are very vulnerable. It’s very clinical and very cold. I don’t think there’s any need for this letter to be sent out at this stage.”

The letter from the Income Management Team offered condolences but also stressed: “it you are responsible for administering Irene Kay’s estate and you proceed to distribute the estate without paying the outstanding debt to the county council, you will be held personally liable for that debt.”

An appalled Jonathan said: “That’s a charming condolence letter isn’t it? They are offering condolences and three lines later they are threatening me.”

Irene, a one-time keen charity worker, who suffered a stroke in 2009, had previously been a local branch secretary for Guide Dogs for the Blind and volunteered at a British Heart Foundation charity shop. Her husband, solicitor Ivan, died 34 years ago.

Earlier in May Jonathan had paid a bill for £53.82 to cover the care his mother received in April.

Jonathan added that his mother had received excellent care.

Derek Jackson, Lancashire County Council’s head of exchequer services, said: “I offer my sincere condolences to Mr Kay and his family.

“The last thing we would want to do is cause any further distress and I’m very sorry they have been upset by the letter.”

But he added: “Where there are payments due, which relate to a deceased family member who has been in receipt of social care, we write to the family at an early stage before estates are settled so that the person dealing with the estate is aware of the debt before the estate is distributed. We are sorry that in this case by doing so we have caused upset.

“Losing a loved one is very sad and our thoughts and sympathies are with Mr Kay and his family at this difficult time.”