Derbyshire County Council (19 017 268)

Category : Adult care services > Disabled facilities grants

Decision : Closed after initial enquiries

Decision date : 12 Mar 2020

The Ombudsman's final decision:

Summary: Mrs X complains about the quality of work allowed by the Council when a lift was installed in her late father’s home. The Ombudsman will not investigate this complaint as we do not consider Mrs X has suffered a significant personal injustice. Also she can ask the courts to decide whether the builder was negligent.

The complaint

  1. Mrs X complains about the quality of the work on her late father’s home when it arranged for a lift to be installed for him. She says the builders weakened the structure of the house which could have endangered her father’s life.
  2. Mrs X wants:
    • compensation
    • an apology; and
    • the builder ‘brought to justice’

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The Ombudsman’s role and powers

  1. We investigate complaints about ‘maladministration’ and ‘service failure’. In this statement, I have used the word ‘fault’ to refer to these. We must also consider whether any fault has had an adverse impact on the person making the complaint. I refer to this as ‘injustice’. We provide a free service but must use public money carefully. We may decide not to start or continue with an investigation if we believe:
  • it is unlikely we would find fault, or
  • the fault has not caused injustice to the person who complained, or
  • the injustice is not significant enough to justify our involvement, or
  • it is unlikely we could add to any previous investigation by the Council, or
  • it is unlikely further investigation will lead to a different outcome, or
  • we cannot achieve the outcome someone wants

(Local Government Act 1974, section 24A (6), as amended)

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How I considered this complaint

  1. I considered the information provided by Mrs X, including the Council’s responses to her complaint.

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What I found

  1. In 2015, Mrs X’s late father, Mr Y had a lift installed in his home to help him with his disabilities. Mr Y asked the Council to act as agents for him and the work was funded through a disabled facilities grant (DFG).
  2. A replacement lift was installed in 2016 because the original lift was too small to hold his wheelchair.
  3. Sadly, Mr Y has since died, and Mrs X says defective, poor quality workmanship has been discovered. She feels the Council should not have issued a completion certificate for the work.
  4. Mrs X says the work carried out could have caused her father injury and points to the Council’s admission that he was stuck in the lift on one occasion as evidence of this.
  5. The Council says the work was carried out by a well known, qualified company. Following completion number of the work the Council’s issued a completion certificate. It says Mr Y was told not to use his electric wheelchair in the lift as it was too heavy. On the one occasion it is aware he got stuck, Council officers attended and freed him. It was noted at the time that he was in his electric wheelchair, despite being told not to use it in the lift. It says the occupational therapist at the time thought this may have contributed to the lift getting stuck.
  6. It also advised all latent defects and faults with the lift were corrected by the contractor. Once the warranty period expired responsibility for maintenance of the lift was Mr Y’s responsibility.


  1. I understand Mrs X wants compensation because of the possible risk to her late father due to defective work.
  2. While I understand Mrs X may be concerned her father may have been exposed to risk of injury, there is no evidence that he came to harm. Also, Mrs X herself has not claimed any injury as a result of the Council’s actions. Therefore, I do not consider she has suffered any personal injustice as a direct result of the Council’s actions.
  3. Also, even if the Council was at fault in not making thorough inspections of the work carried out at Mr Y’s home, the Ombudsman would not be able to provide a remedy. The courts have held that a council cannot be held responsible for economic loss for the cost of remedying a defect that resulted from its failure to ensure that a building complied with the building regulations.
  4. It is the Ombudsman’s view that only in exceptional circumstances shoud he impose an obligation on councils where the courts have held there should be no liability in law. There are no exceptional circumstances which would lead me to decide to start an investigation into the Council’s actions in this case.
  5. It is open to Mrs X to take legal advice on how she may make a claim against the builder who carried out the allegedly defective work.

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Final decision

  1. I will not investigate this complaint. I do not consider she has suffered sufficient personal injustice because of the Council’s actions. And she can take legal action against the builder if she considers they were negligent.

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Investigator's decision on behalf of the Ombudsman

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