Decision : Not upheld
Decision date : 20 Aug 2019
The Ombudsman's final decision:
Summary: The complaint is about a disabled facilities grant. There was no fault in the Council’s refusal to install an accessible back door, do further works to the path or to install a door entry system in Mr E’s bungalow. The decisions were in line with the law and guidance on disabled facilities grants.
- Mr E complains North East Lincolnshire District Council (the Council) refused to install an accessible back door so he could get to his garden. He also complains the Council would not install a remote door entry system to the front door to enable him to let someone in when he was incapacitated due to incontinence.
The Ombudsman’s role and powers
- We investigate complaints about ‘maladministration’ and ‘service failure’. In this statement, I have used the word ‘fault’ to refer to these. If we are satisfied with a council’s actions or proposed actions, we can complete our investigation and issue a decision statement. (Local Government Act 1974, section 30(1B) and 34H(i), as amended)
How I considered this complaint
- I considered Mr E’s complaint, the Council’s responses to his complaint and documents described later in this statement. The parties received a draft of this statement and I took comments into account.
What I found
Relevant law, policy and guidance
- Disabled Facilities Grants (DFGs) are provided under the Housing Grants, Construction and Regeneration Act 1996. Councils have a duty to provide means-tested grants if they are satisfied the work is necessary and suitable to meet the disabled person’s needs and is reasonable and practicable.
- The law says a DFG must be given for the purpose of facilitating the disabled person’s access to and from the property, facilitating access to and from a garden and making access to and from a garden safe.
- Home Adaptations for Disabled People is good practice guidance and so reasonable for councils to follow. It explains the criteria for a grant are around facilitating access to and around a property/garden and making access safe. It explains equipment can contribute to these purposes.
- In North East Lincolnshire, the process for deciding who gets funding for disabled facilities grants is that an occupational therapist assesses the person’s needs and submits a request to the disabled facilities grants panel with recommendations. The panel assesses the recommendations, medical evidence and issues a decision.
- Mr E has physical disabilities and uses a wheelchair. He moved into a bungalow in 2018.
- An occupational therapy assessment completed before Mr E moved into the bungalow described the type of property and adaptations Mr E would need: level access shower, level entry into the property, access door one metre wide, facilities on one level with one meter door widths between rooms, level access shower and adapted kitchen. The assessment noted Mr E would like a remote door entry system to enable him to let visitors in easily. The assessment did not recommend a remote door entry system or that the back door needed to be adapted.
- The Council arranged and funded adaptations with a DFG including widening the front door so Mr E could get in and out. The funding panel did not agree a door entry system or works to widen the back door.
- The Council told me:
- It provided a new front door to Mr E’s bungalow with level threshold and ramp which gave him access to the front garden, drive and path to the rear garden.
- Its policy was to adapt one entrance where the adapted access provided access to the garden, in Mr E’s case, the adapted front door gave access to the back garden by a path down one side of the bungalow
- Officers measured the path to the back garden and it was wide enough to accommodate Mr E’s wheelchair. He could negotiate the manhole cover safely in the wheelchair.
- Mr E stated that a door entry system and an accessible back door was verbally agreed, but officers, including the Head of Lettings (who had been present at a visit to the property), denied this. There was no record of any verbal agreement;
- He had been offered a key safe;
- The Head of Lettings said adaptations were agreed on the basis of an OT’s recommendations. The OT did not recommend a front door entry system and Mr E could access the garden using the front door;
- Mr E applied to the DFG panel for a door entry system and back door, but his application had been refused;
- A fire assessment concluded the property was compliant with current fire regulations (as Mr E had been concerned about this).
- The OT submitted a request for the door entry system in April 2018, but the DFG panel turned down the request;
- The OT’s manager carried out a review when Mr E appealed, but the request was refused again.
- He could only use his foot to help with turning in the wheelchair
- He went to a site meeting with the OT and a housing officer where the door entry system was agreed
- The path was uneven and unsafe and made the back garden inaccessible
- The Council did not take into account his inability to get to the door at night when he was incontinent. A key safe was not suitable for him as he has depression and anxiety.
Was there fault?
The decision not to adapt the back door
- The law requires the Council to provide a grant to facilitate access to Mr E’s garden if the Council considers the work is necessary to meet his needs.
- The Council considers Mr E can get to his back garden using the front door. As Mr E has another way of accessing his back garden, the Council did not consider the work to his back door was necessary. There was no fault in the decision not to adapt the back door because it was in line with the law and guidance described in paragraphs four to six.
The decision not to install a remote entry system
- The Council widened Mr E’s front door and this provides him with a way of accessing the property as required under the DFG legislation. The evidence shows Mr E can mobilise around the bungalow in his wheelchair, including to and from the front door. There was no requirement to install a door entry system because Mr E can get in and out of the property in his wheelchair using his key.
- Mr E told us the door entry system was agreed at a site meeting verbally. There is no written record of such an agreement and even if there was, this type of adaptation was not for officers to agree at a meeting. The Council’s procedure is that adaptations are agreed by a panel of senior officers.
- The Council considered Mr E’s anxiety and depression when proposing a key safe to enable Mr E’s visitors to get when he is incontinent and unable to get to the door, by offering to install the key safe in a discreet place. There was no fault in the Council’s approach which was in line with good practice guidance which makes it clear that equipment can be a way of fulfilling the purposes of a grant.
The path and patio to the back garden
- DFGs are mandatory to make access to and from a garden safe. I am satisfied the Council has considered safe access for Mr E in line with DFG requirements and so there is no fault. The Council has measured the width of the path and established Mr E can use the path safely to get to the back garden. There was therefore no requirement for the Council to complete further works to the path and patio. I do not uphold this complaint.
- The complaint is about a disabled facilities grant. There was no fault in the Council’s refusal to install an accessible back door, do further works to the path or to install a door entry system at Mr E’s bungalow. The decisions were in line with the law and guidance on disabled facilities grants.
- I have completed my investigation.
Investigator's decision on behalf of the Ombudsman