London Borough of Hillingdon (21 002 369)

Category : Adult care services > Disabled facilities grants

Decision : Upheld

Decision date : 24 Feb 2022

The Ombudsman's final decision:

Summary: Mr B says the Council failed to properly consider his mother’s needs when completing works for a disabled facilities grant, failed to take action when the issues became clear, misled him and is unreasonably requiring a new disabled facilities grant application. The Council’s communications with Mr B have been poor and there was delay, although that is unlikely to have affected the issues being resolved. An apology, payment to Mr B and prioritising a visit to assess the works required is satisfactory remedy.

The complaint

  1. The complainant, whom I shall refer to as Mr B, complained about the way the Council handled a disabled facilities grant for his mother. Mr B complained the Council:
    • failed to consider his mother’s religious requirements when completing the works;
    • failed to act to amend the drainage for the shower system to reflect his mother’s religious needs and to enable her to clean herself properly without taking a full shower;
    • misled the family into believing the Council would order a new pump system for the shower;
    • unreasonably said any changes to the shower required a second disabled facilities grant application which will delay resolution;
    • failed to act to resolve the issue of the toilet being too high;
    • failed to ensure snagging issues were resolved; and
    • left the family without a working shower for 18 days.
  2. Mr B says failures by the Council meant his family have been deprived of their right to exercise their religion and his mother has been unable to use the shower or toilet.

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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’. If there has been fault which has caused an injustice, we may suggest a remedy. (Local Government Act 1974, sections 26(1) and 26A(1), 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. As part of the investigation, I have:
    • considered the complaint, Mr B's comments;
    • made enquiries of the Council and considered the comments and documents the Council provided.
  2. Mr B and the Council had an opportunity to comment on my draft decision. I considered any comments received before making a final decision.

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What I found

What should have happened

  1. The Council’s disabled facilities grant and housing assistance policy (the policy) says a landlord’s written permission must be obtained before a grant is approved. The policy states the criteria for a mandatory grant which includes facilitating access to a bathroom.
  2. The policy says the adaptations assessment will be carried out by an occupational therapist. The occupational therapist will determine whether works are necessary and appropriate to meet the residents needs and the occupational therapist will assign priority and provide recommendations. Unless urgent priority is given all applications receive standard priority and are dealt with in chronological order.
  3. The policy says all works must be completed in line with the occupational therapist’s recommendations.
  4. The policy refers to section 34 of the Housing Grants, Construction and Regeneration Act 1996, which requires councils to approve or refuse a grant application within six months of receiving the application. The policy states the Council’s aim is to achieve this within 4 weeks of receiving the application.
  5. The policy says the Council will aim to complete the installation of all disabled adaptations within 12 months from the date of the grant approval.

What happened

  1. Mr B’s mother applied for a disabled facilities grant application for works to her bathroom in 2018. The occupational therapist recommended replacement of the bath with a level access shower, an increased height toilet and other works. The landlord gave permission for the works in January 2019.
  2. Works began on site on 10 August 2020. The works completed on 26 August. At that point Mr B contacted the Council to tell it the works did not meet his mother’s religious needs. Mr B asked for a further occupational therapy assessment.
  3. An occupational therapist visited Mr B’s mother and carried out a further assessment on 18 September. Following that visit the occupational therapist recommended the toilet be changed to an 18 inch high toilet rather than 20 inch. The occupational therapist asked whether an alternative pump could be installed that is activated by any source of water as the family pray 3-4 times a day and it is therefore a major issue. The occupational therapist suggested an alternative would be a shower cubicle with a lip installed. The occupational therapist also referred to some work not being completed, noting Mr B had asked the contractors to down tools.
  4. The Council contacted Mr B’s mother’s housing association to arrange a visit in September 2020. When the housing association did not respond the Council contacted it again in November and December 2020. Shortly before Christmas 2020 the landlord confirmed it would take part in a joint inspection after the Tier 4 Covid 19 restrictions had been lifted. The landlord asked for more information about the outstanding work.
  5. The Council contacted Mr B in January 2021 to advise the visit would take place once Covid 19 restrictions were lifted. There is no evidence of further contact between the Council and the landlord.
  6. Mr B chased the Council in March 2021. The Council told Mr B it still needed to carry out a joint visit with the landlord. The Council has since contacted Mr B to arrange a visit but he has refused access.


  1. Mr B says the Council failed to consider his mother’s religious needs when completing works for a disabled facilities grant. Mr B says because the Council has installed a shower where the pump does not drain away water unless the showerhead is working his family is unable to use the shower as it normally would to carry out cleansing before prayer. Having considered the documentary evidence I have found nothing to suggest the family made clear to the Council their religion required them to have a shower which allowed drainage independently of the showerhead being used. As far as I can see that issue was only mentioned to the Council once works to the shower had begun. I appreciate the family are unlikely to have known how the drainage would work and that this would not suit the family’s needs until the works had been completed. However, given the Council was not notified of any specific religious requirements when completing the assessment I cannot say the installation of the shower was affected by fault.
  2. The issue is therefore what the Council has done since it became aware of the issue with the drainage for the shower. Mr B says the Council failed to act to amend the drainage arrangements for the shower system despite telling the family it would order a new pump. I am satisfied the Council acted promptly on being notified of concerns about the operation of the shower by arranging an occupational therapy visit in September 2020. I am also satisfied that visit resulted in the Council identifying the need for a new pump or alternative arrangements for the shower as well as a new toilet.
  3. The Council says it did not order the new pump because it could not do that without confirming with Mr B the amount of water that needed to be pumped away. The Council says it has had several telephone conversations with Mr B about that and has emailed him. The Council says despite those contacts Mr B has not provided details of the family’s water usage to enable a pump to be ordered. Having considered the documentary records there is no evidence of telephone calls with Mr B where the issue of water usage was discussed. The only documentary evidence the Council has provided in relation to this is an email in September 2020. That email asks Mr B for details of water usage. However, the email does not make clear that without this information the Council cannot place the order. So, while Mr B may not have given the Council that information I do not consider it likely Mr B understood the need for that information to be provided before the Council could order the pump. Nor is there any evidence of contact with Mr B after the email to make this point clear. I am also concerned the Council’s communications with Mr B suggested the pump had already been ordered when that was not the case. Failure to be clear in communications with Mr B is fault.
  4. I am also concerned about the Council’s communications with Mr B about the need for a new disabled facilities grant application to complete the works to the shower and toilet. There is no evidence the Council told Mr B it would process those requirements under a new disabled facilities grant until the Council responded to a complaint in May 2021. I understand Mr B’s concern about that given this impacts on timescales for completion of the overall works. In this case the Council appears to have reached the view that a new grant application is required on the basis that the works to the shower were completed in accordance with the original specification and the new requirements were not known at the time of the original installation. For the toilet, the Council considers that will be part of the new application because again it was not an issue identified at the original assessment (and nor could it have been as it relates to the replacement toilet installed as part of the first grant application). It is not the Ombudsman’s role to say whether a new grant application is required. That is a matter for the Council to decide. However, I would have expected the Council to discuss those matters with Mr B at the time of the occupational therapy visit in September 2020. I have seen no evidence to suggest the Council did that. The fact the Council emailed Mr B about the water usage issue is also unlikely to have put Mr B on notice that the new works would require a new grant application. As I said in the previous paragraph, failure to be clear in communications with Mr B is fault.
  5. There is clearly now an issue though with the height of the toilet and the snagging issues that require resolution as well as the issue with the shower. Those issues have still not been resolved more than 12 months since the works were completed. I appreciate some of the delay during that period was because the Council could not attend the property to carry out the works due to level 4 restrictions in London during Covid 19. However, the Council has provided no evidence to suggest it tried to arrange a visit once those restrictions were lifted in March 2021. That is fault. Nor is there any evidence to suggest the Council considered whether it was appropriate to carry out a visit despite tier 4 restrictions being in place given building works could still take place during that period. That is also fault. The situation is complicated now by the fact that since July 2021 Mr B has refused access to Council officers. As I understand it this is because Mr B is concerned about the Council’s insistence on a new disabled facilities grant and he is therefore only willing to allow access if the Council carries out the works as a matter of priority. While I understand Mr B’s frustration, I cannot criticise the Council for not visiting to complete the works since July 2021 when the evidence shows it is Mr B that is preventing resolution of the issues by refusing a visit. I can therefore only criticise the Council for delays between September 2020 when the occupational therapist made her recommendations and July 2021, when Mr B refused access.
  6. Mr B says the Council left the family without a working shower for 18 days between 10 August 2020 and 27 August 2020. In contrast the Council says the family stopped the contractors returning until the shower pump issue had been resolved. The Council says that contributed to the period the family were without a working shower. It is not clear from the documentary records when or if Mr B stopped the contractors attending his mother’s property. It is clear though that at some point during the works to the shower Mr B identified the issue with the drainage after talking to the contractor, which resulted in the Council arranging a further visit. As with the later communications with Mr B there have been some communication issues about what the Council needed to do in response to the concerns raised. However, I do not have any evidence to suggest fault by the Council led to delay completing the works to the shower in August 2020. I therefore could not say fault by the Council meant Mr B’s mother was without a shower for 18 days.
  7. So, I have found fault in the Council’s communications with Mr B. There was also delay by the Council arranging a visit to the property before July 2021. I consider it possible Mr B would have been more willing to work with the Council if it had been clearer in its communications. However, I also recognise Mr B disputes the need for a new disabled facilities grant application. That creates some uncertainty about whether Mr B would have cooperated with the Council and allowed access to resolve the issues in 2021. In those circumstances it is unlikely fault by the Council would have resulted in matters being resolved earlier.
  8. However, there has already been considerable delay in completing the grant works as Mr B’s mother applied in October 2018 and the works did not begin until August 2020. In those circumstances, in addition to an apology to Mr B and payment of £250 to reflect his distress and time and trouble in pursuing the complaint, I recommended the Council prioritise a visit to assess the works required and then arrange those works as a matter of priority. I made that recommendation as I am concerned Mr B’s mother could be waiting another 12 months for the works to be completed when she already had to wait almost two years for the works to begin for the first grant application, which is outside the timescales I refer to in paragraphs 10 and 11. To be clear, those works should include replacing the shower pump, reducing the height of the toilet and carrying out the snagging issues. The Council should then draw up an action plan to resolve those issues and ensure it sets timescales for completion. That work will obviously require Mr B’s mother to facilitate access to the property for the discussions to take place. The Council has agreed to my recommendations.

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Agreed action

  1. Within one month of my decision the Council should:
    • apologise to Mr B and his mother;
    • pay Mr B £250; and
    • arrange a joint visit with the housing association to assess the works required.
  2. Within one month of that visit the Council should draw up an action plan to identify the works agreed and the timescale within which those works will be completed and communicate that to Mr B.

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Final decision

  1. I have completed my investigation and find fault by the Council in part of the complaint which caused Mr B an injustice. I am satisfied the action the Council will take is sufficient to remedy that injustice.

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Investigator's decision on behalf of the Ombudsman

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