Decision : Upheld
Decision date : 04 Apr 2011
Liverpool City Council’s failures meant that a disabled man had to wait too long for the level-access shower he had been assessed as needing.
The Ombudsman said that, even though he was a tenant of a registered social landlord, the Council had a statutory duty as a social services authority to meet his assessed need and could not pass it on to another organisation. She said that the man had to strip-wash for a year to 18 months longer than he would otherwise have done. This had compromised his dignity and independence and jeopardised his health.
‘Mr D’ was a tenant of a registered social landlord, Liverpool Mutual Homes. He could not use a bath because he had arthritis in his spine, pelvis and both hands. He also had a medical condition that made it particularly important for him to maintain his personal hygiene.
In April 2009 a Council occupational therapist assessed that Mr D needed a walk-in shower. In accordance with an agreement between the Council and Mr D’s landlord, the occupational therapist sent her report to the landlord and asked for the work to be done as quickly as possible. The agreement said the landlord would install a shower in 60 days of receiving a recommendation from the Occupational Therapy Team. Mr D heard nothing for a year and was then told by his landlord that the shower would be provided in 2012 as part of an improvement programme for its houses in his area.
The Citizens Advice Bureau made representations on Mr D’s behalf. The landlord said it had some 500 tenants waiting for adaptations and doing the work as part of wider improvements maximised its resources. The Council reiterated the landlord’s comments and said Mr D should contact the Occupational Therapy Team if his condition got worse.
The Council processed applications for disabled facilities grants for showers so that the work was generally done in about 38 weeks from an application being made.
After Mr D and the CAB complained to the Ombudsman, his landlord found the resources to provide a shower that had been installed.
The Ombudsman found that:
- Mr D would have waited three years for a shower after being assessed simply because he was a tenant of a registered social landlord – two years longer than he would have done if the shower had been funded by a disabled facilities grant. As it was, his complaint to the Ombudsman meant that he still had to wait about 18 months longer
- there was no consistency or standard practice in Liverpool for funding and providing adaptations for disabled tenants of registered social landlords
- the agreement between Liverpool Council and Mr D’s landlord did not say what should happen if the landlord decided it did not have funds to adapt its homes to meet the needs of its disabled tenants, and
- the Council did not check whether recommendations made by its occupational therapists had been implemented by registered social landlords.
She found that the Council acted with maladministration because it failed:
- to meet, in a reasonable timescale, Mr D’s assessed need for a level access shower
- to establish whether Mr D was eligible for a disabled facilities grant, and
- to act once it knew that Mr D’s landlord would not provide a level access shower until 2012.
The Ombudsman has no power to investigate the actions of a registered social landlord.
The Ombudsman recommended that the Council should:
- instruct its officers to review its current arrangements against the good practice check list published by the DCLG
- review the various protocols that it has with registered social landlords for adapting the homes of disabled tenants and identify barriers to completing works in the timescales in the good practice guide
- receive a report on these issues at its Housing Select Committee within six months and provide a copy to the Ombudsman, and
- apologise to Mr D and pay him £2,000 in recognition of the impact of the delay on his dignity, risk to health and time and trouble in pursuing his complaint.
LGO satisfied with Council's response: 14 February 2012