Ombudsman’s Report: Investigation into complaint no 05/B/00246 against London Borough of Croydon [24/7/06]

The complainant (H) was a council tenant who suffered from chronic back pain.  H moved in to an unadapted two bedroom two storey house.  H was unable to access the first floor and raised the issue with Social Services and requested that a stairlift be installed at the property.

A local authority has a duty, where it is satisfied that person has certain needs, including the need for the provision of assistance in adapting his or her home, to make arrangements for those works to be carried out, under s.2 Chronically Sick and Disabled Persons Act 1970.  It was satisfied that H was eligible and prioritised his need in accordance with its policy.  H was classified as having a ‘high need’ and the target for completing adaptations for persons in this category was within eighty-two weeks of the initial request.  It took almost thirty-two weeks for H to be referred to an Occupational Therapist.  Some minor adaptations were proposed to assist H use his bed and chair.  A stairlift was to be installed and with a wet-floor shower instead of a bath.  Due to budgetary constraints there was a delay to the work commencing.   The work was eventually carried out fifty-six weeks after his initial request but was found to be unsatisfactory by H who contacted the Council.  An engineer had to attend his home several times before the stairlift operated correctly, although it was possible that H’s deteriorating condition contributed to the difficulties he encountered.  When the problems regarding the stairlift appear to have been resolved, his case was closed, sixty-seven weeks after referral, but within the Council’s eighty-two week target.    H then had further problems with the stairlift and it was removed and replaced.  He argued that it had never been fit for purpose and that his case should not have been closed.

The Ombudsman found that the Council had identified the required adaptations and agreed to carry them out with reasonable speed.  Neither were there grounds to criticise the Council for the decision to close the case since it appeared that the adaptations had been completed to a satisfactory standard. There was no suggestion that the Council failed to meet its targets. However, the Ombudsman stated that the Council’s targets should be reasonable and that adaptations to a disabled person’s home should be carried out within an acceptable period of time.  Setting time targets which themselves provided the potential for unreasonable delay in light of the nature of the duty owed, amounting to maladministration, was itself unreasonable.  Eight months was an unreasonable length of time for a disabled person to have to wait for a request for adaptations to be properly assessed and then to wait for a further six months for relatively minor adaptations recommended to be carried out.  This was maladministration.  It was recommended that the Council review its resources, targets and procedures with a view to ensuring that cases could be referred to an Occupational Therapist within three months.

The Council agreed to pay H £1250 in compensation.

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