Decision : Not upheld
Decision date : 21 Jun 2021
The Ombudsman's final decision:
Summary: Mrs E complained about the Council’s refusal to install a shower screen. We find there was no fault in the Council’s initial decision-making not to install a shower screen. The Council has now installed the shower screen, but Mrs E is unhappy with the installation. We cannot investigate Mrs E’s complaint about the installation of the shower screen because it falls under the jurisdiction of the Housing Ombudsman Service.
- Mrs E complained about the Council’s refusal to install a shower screen. She says the Council’s refusal to adapt her home as a disabled person put her at a substantial disadvantage.
The Ombudsman’s role and powers
- 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)
- We cannot investigate complaints about the provision or management of social housing by a council acting as a registered social housing provider. (Local Government Act 1974, paragraph 5A schedule 5, as amended)
- 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 information from Mrs E and the Council.
- Mrs E and the Council had an opportunity to comment on my draft decision. I considered any comments received before making a final decision.
What I found
- The purpose of a needs assessment is to determine if a person has needs that meet the eligibility criteria for care and support. If a person has eligible needs, councils have a duty to ensure they are met. The Care Act 2014 recognises that suitable accommodation is one way of meeting care and support needs.
- A person may be eligible for a Disabled Facilities Grants (DFG) to help meet the costs of adapting a property to meet their specific needs. DFGs are provided under the terms of the Housing Grants, Construction and Regeneration Act 1996. Councils have a statutory duty to provide grant aid to disabled people for certain adaptations. The maximum amount of a DFG is £30,000.
- Councils only approve grants for work they decide is necessary. The assessment of need is usually done by an Occupational Therapist (OT).
- Mrs E is disabled and lives in a Council-owned house. She approached the Council for various adaptations to her house, including for it to install a shower screen. The Council had previously installed a wall mounted shower seat with a full-length shower curtain and one grab rail. Mrs E said a shower screen would prevent her from falling outside the shower.
- The OT assessed Mrs E and said it would not recommend a shower screen but suggested that she should remain sitting down if she felt unsteady when standing and showering. Mrs E said she did not want to stay seated in the shower. The OT also recommend additional grab rails or that Mrs E could change her position in the shower. Mrs E said she did not think the OT’s suggestions would resolve the problem.
- Mrs E wrote to the Council and said she wanted to know why it refused to install a shower screen. She said she needed it to keep her safe and allow her to use her shower without the fear of overbalancing. The Council responded and explained that it would not recommend shower screens, but the OT gave her advice to help reduce the risk of falls when showering. It confirmed the recommendation for additional grab rails in the shower was still available.
- Mrs E complained to the Council and said it had failed to make reasonable adjustments under the Equality Act 2010. She said if she were to overbalance in the shower, there was nothing stopping her from falling into the radiator or the door frame. She said it was unacceptable that she had to justify her needs.
- The Council responded to Mrs E’s complaint and said it did not recommend full length shower screens because they create a solid barrier that restrict access to someone who has fallen. It said it had previously installed a shower seat and rails to reduce her risk of falling. It said it could not fund an item that is not assessed as appropriate to meet her needs.
- Mrs E remained unhappy with the Council’s response and referred her complaint to the Ombudsman.
- It is not for the Ombudsman to say what adaptations are required to meet a person’s needs. Our role is to determine if there was any fault in the way the Council reached its decision.
- When the Council received Mrs E’s referral, the OT assessed her, listened to her views, and considered what adaptations had previously been made to her house. The OT said shower screens would not be appropriate but recommended additional grab rails in the shower and gave Mrs E advice to reduce her risk of falling. The Council also explained to Mrs E in response to her complaint that shower screens restrict access to someone has fallen and so it would not benefit her. I appreciate Mrs E is disappointed with the Council’s initial refusal to install the shower screen, but there is no fault in the way the Council reached its decision.
- Mrs E says the Council has now installed the shower screen. She says it has installed it for maintenance purposes and not because of her disability. She is not happy with the installation and has contacted the Council to fix it.
- As Mrs E is a Council tenant, the Ombudsman is limited to looking at the Council’s actions in relation to its social care duties. The Council has now installed the shower screen for maintenance purposes, and not because of Mrs E’s disability needs. As Mrs E is unhappy with the installation, she will need to make a further complaint to the Council. If she remains unhappy with the Council’s response, she will need to refer her complaint to the Housing Ombudsman Service. The Housing Ombudsman Service deals with complaints about councils as registered social landlords.
- I have completed my investigation. The Council was not at fault.
Investigator's decision on behalf of the Ombudsman