London Borough of Hackney (19 007 469)

Category : Adult care services > Disabled facilities grants

Decision : Not upheld

Decision date : 19 Mar 2020

The Ombudsman's final decision:

Summary: Mrs X complained the Council failed to properly consider her medical needs when it processed her disabled facilities grant application. She said this caused her distress and inconvenience. There was no fault in the way the Council dealt with Mrs X’s application.

The complaint

  1. Mrs X complained the Council refused her request for equipment she asked for when she applied for a disabled facility grant.
  2. She said this has caused her stress and negatively affected her health.

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The Ombudsman’s role and powers

  1. We investigate complaints of injustice caused by ‘maladministration’ and ‘service failure’. I have used the word ‘fault’ to refer to these. We cannot question whether a council’s decision is right or wrong simply because the complainant disagrees with it. We must consider whether there was fault in the way the decision was reached. (Local Government Act 1974, section 34(3), as amended)
  2. 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)

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How I considered this complaint

  1. I contacted Mrs X and discussed her view of the complaint.
  2. I reviewed correspondence shared between Mrs X and the Council, as well as Mrs X’s complaint form, telephone notes and a copy of her occupational therapy assessment form.
  3. I wrote to Mrs X and the Council and considered their comments before I made a final decision.

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What I found

Council policy and law

  1. Disabled Facilities Grants (DFG) are mandatory means tested grants, which are awarded by councils to disabled applicants who require house adaptations.
  2. The DFG is paid towards the cost of the adaptation. Examples of adaptations can include installing a stair lift or ramp.
  3. The Council will only approve a DFG if it decides the requested adaptation is necessary and can be reasonably carried out dependent on the age and condition of the property.
  4. An occupational therapist (OT) will usually assess whether an applicant requires house adaptations in order to live comfortably.


  1. Mrs X is elderly and suffers with chronic back pain which affects her mobility.
    Mrs X says taking long baths helps her to manage the pain caused by her condition.
  2. In 2017, Mrs X’s doctor referred her for an Occupational Therapy Assessment stating, “This lady is struggling to get in and out of the bath… she was seen and assessed for a possible walk-in shower some time ago… she is prepared to consider a walk-in shower.”
  3. The assessment determined Mrs X had several longstanding health conditions and had trouble standing from a seated position. She asked the Occupational Therapist (OT) to arrange a walk-in bath. The OT explained this was not appropriate for her because it would require her to sit in the bath for up to 30 minutes whilst it was draining, which could put her at risk of hypothermia.
    The OT suggested she use a bath board on a trial basis, but Mrs X declined this.

What happened

  1. Mrs X successfully applied for a DFG in January 2019. As part of this, she requested a walk-in bath and a swivel chair.
  2. The Council declined Mrs X’s request for a walk-in bath in February 2019, repeating the previous reasons it had given her. It recommended installing a wet floor shower and a riser-recliner chair which would assist Mrs X in reaching a standing position.
  3. Mrs X contacted the Council in March 2019 because she was unhappy the Council would not provide a walk-in bath. The Council again advised this was unsuitable for Mrs X and offered a wet floor shower installation and riser-recliner chair. Mrs X agreed to this several days later.
  4. In June 2019, Mrs X contacted the Council because she was unhappy with the chair the Council had provided. She asked the Council to provide a riser-recliner chair with a swivel function and enquired again about a walk-in bath.
  5. The Council again explained why it would not recommend a walk-in bath for Mrs X and told her the type of chair she was requesting did not exist. It confirmed the chair it had provided was suitable for her needs. Mrs X was unhappy with this and so the Council arranged to collect the chair.
  6. Mrs X’s doctor sent the Council a letter in July 2019 saying he supported her request if the items she had requested would help Mrs X maintain her independence. Mrs X then raised a formal complaint in July 2019 because she remained unhappy the Council would not grant her request.
  7. The Council responded in July 2019, advising that an OT had assessed Mrs X and recommended a wet floor shower. The Council explained again that a walk-in bath could put Mrs X at risk of hypothermia and there was no medical evidence it would benefit her.
  8. Mrs X was unhappy with this reply and referred her complaint to the Ombudsman.
  9. The Council has confirmed during the investigation it is willing to provide Mrs X with the shower and chair she needs but is unable to do so until she agrees to them.

My findings

  1. It is for the Council to decide whether an applicant’s request for a house adaptation is necessary. Mrs X was assessed by an OT who considered her health conditions and needs, along with the supporting letter from her doctor.
    The OT decided a walk-in bath would not be beneficial for her health and there was no medical evidence which supported Mrs X’s request. The Council has provided Mrs X with the reasons it would not provide a walk-in bath. The Ombudsman cannot question the merits of a decision which has been properly made. There was no fault in the Council’s actions.
  2. Mrs X complained the Council would not provide her with a swivel chair.
    The Council assessed Mrs X and identified she had trouble transitioning from sitting to standing. The Council therefore provided her with a chair designed to help her stand up without assistance which meets her assessed needs. There is no evidence Mrs X was assessed as requiring a swivel chair. There was no fault in the Council’s actions.
  3. The Council has confirmed it will proceed with the agreed adaptations if Mrs X is agreeable to this. Mrs X can contact the Council to discuss this further.

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Final decision

  1. The Council was not at fault in how it managed Mrs X’s application for a disabled facilities grant. I have therefore completed my investigation.

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Investigator's decision on behalf of the Ombudsman

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