Leicester City Council (23 001 484)

Category : Adult care services > Disabled facilities grants

Decision : Upheld

Decision date : 02 Oct 2023

The Ombudsman's final decision:

Summary: Mrs X complained there have been significant delays in providing her son, Mr Y with a working step lift to enable him to access and exit his home independently. The Council’s delays and failure to ensure Mr Y had a working lift that met his needs so that he could enter and exist his home independently are fault. This fault has caused Mr Y and Mrs X an injustice.

The complaint

  1. The complainant, whom I shall refer to as Mrs X complained there have been significant delays in providing her son, Mr Y with a working step lift to enable him to access and exit his home independently. Mrs X complained the lift was incorrectly installed in October 2019 and four years later Mr Y is still unable to use it independently.

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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 significant injustice, or that could cause injustice to others in the future we may suggest a remedy. (Local Government Act 1974, sections 26(1) and 26A(1), as amended)
  2. We cannot investigate late complaints unless we decide there are good reasons. Late complaints are when someone takes more than 12 months to complain to us about something a council has done. (Local Government Act 1974, sections 26B and 34D, as amended)
  3. If we are satisfied with an organisation’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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What I have and have not investigated

  1. Mrs X complained Mr Y has been unable to use the step-lift since it was installed in October 2019. I am however only investigating events since May 2022 as Mrs X complained to us in early May 2023. We expect people to raise their complaints with us within 12 months of them becoming aware of the issue they are complaining about. We do have discretion to consider complaints about events outside this time frame where there are good reasons for the late complaint but I do not consider it appropriate in this instance. I recognise this has been an ongoing issue, but it was open to Mrs X to complain to us sooner.

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How I considered this complaint

  1. As part of the investigation, I have:
    • considered the complaint and the documents provided by Mrs X;
    • made enquiries of the Council and considered the comments and documents the Council provided;
    • discussed the issues with Mrs X;
    • Mrs X 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


  1. Mr Y is limited in his mobility and cannot use a manual wheelchair independently. He uses a powered wheelchair outside his home. Mr Y was unable to access his home in his powered wheelchair.
  2. In 2018 the Council agreed to install a step-lift to enable Mr Y to enter and leave his home independently. The step lift was then installed in October 2019. At the time it was recommended the step-lift have a concrete platform, leading to a new level threshold door into the house. Mr Y has been unable to use the lift independently since it was installed. The Council says it serviced the lift in January 2020 and attended in response to reports of breakdowns in April, July, October and November 2021 and again in April 2022.

What happened

  1. An officer visited in late April 2022 to check the adaptations and to discuss Mr Y’s issues with access. They observed Mr Y using the step-lift and noted he could not unlock the new door and could not use the key to switch the lift on. The length of the concrete platform also meant he was unable to open the lift door, manoeuvre onto the step-lift, and lock the house door behind him independently.
  2. The Council arranged a further site visit with the contractor in early May 2022 to assess what was needed to make the step-lift useable. The contractor confirmed Mr Y could not use the lift without assistance because of the size of the platform. They advised the platform needed to be extended and that the lift would need to be removed while this was done. The contractor also agreed to look into a remote fob for unlocking the lift door.
  3. The contractor provided a quote for the cost of these works in early June 2022. As the house door would also need to be replaced to accommodate a door opening system the Council requested a quote for these works in July 2022. As the lift was not working, the Council also contacted the contractor regarding repairs to the lift in the meantime.
  4. In August 2022 Mrs X told the Council the switch button was not working so they had to use the master key to open the lift. Mr Y was not able to do this himself so could not use the lift independently. She told the Council contractors had attended to fix the switch but were unable to as parts were missing, there were corroded bolts, things were in the wrong place and it needed a new circuit board. The contractors had also said it was not safe for Mr Y to use the lift as he may get stuck in the lift.
  5. Mrs X was concerned the lift had been in place for three years but Mr Y had only been able to use it a few times, with their help, and that he was now housebound and had lost his independence again. She queried whether the lift could be replaced rather than repaired as she had been told it would be difficult to find replacement parts.
  6. Mrs X contacted the Council again in early October as she had not received a response and the lift had not been repaired. She was unhappy that her calls were not returned and she had not been given an update or timeframe for the works. The Council confirmed they had just received confirmation the lift would be repaired rather than replaced but had not been given a timescale. It also confirmed funding for all the works had now been agreed so the works could take place as a matter of priority.
  7. The Council placed orders for the works on 11 October 2022. Mrs X contacted the Council again in November 2022 as the lift had still not been repaired and Mr Y was isolated, confined to the house. She was concerned about the effect this had on Mr Y’s mental health as he was unable to carry out the everyday activities of a young adult independently. Mrs X also noted the Council had agreed to install an accessible bathroom/ wet room for Mr Y, but she had been told these works could not start until the works to the lift were completed.
  8. The Council confirmed it would chase the contractor for dates for the works to start. A contractor visited to measure for the new door the following day, but Mrs X did not receive any further updates. She chased the Council again in December 2022.
  9. In March 2023 Mrs X made a formal complaint to the Council as the lift was still not working. A new automatic door had been fitted and worked perfectly but Mr Y still could not leave the house independently as the lift did not work. Mrs X reiterated this was having a detrimental effect on Mr Y and the family’s mental health and wellbeing. Mr Y had no independence and was housebound unless his parents took him out in his manual wheelchair.
  10. The Council apologised for the delay and confirmed it was waiting for the contractor to provide a definite start date to remove the lift so that the remedial works could begin. The building works to extend the platform were completed in April 2023 and the lift was reinstalled between 9 and 11 May 2023. Safety railing and fobs for the automatic doors were then due to be completed by late May 2023.
  11. The Council responded formally to Mrs X’s complaint setting out the action it had taken since May 2022,. It apologised for the considerable delays in completing the works so that Mr Y can use the lift independently.
  12. Mrs X has asked the Ombudsman to investigate her complaint as the step lift still does not work. The Council’s records show that when the lift was reinstalled it was not working fully and required a replacement part. Contractors attended on 23 June 2023 to carry out a temporary fix but were unaware of the need for a key fob. Mrs X says that although the contractors released some bolts to make the lift door easier for Mr Y to use, he still cannot use the lift independently.
  13. Mrs X chased the Council for an update in early July 2023 and a couple of weeks later reported the lift had stopped working. A contractor attended and was able to get the lift working again. They explained the lift had stopped working as the rain had tripped the switch in the main fuse box at the side of the lift. Mrs X is concerned this could be a constant problem in heavy rain and that Mr Y will be unable to open the fuse box and reset the switch. In August 2023 Mrs X reported further problems with the fuse box tripping.
  14. In response to my enquiries the Council says the lift had a number of internal electrical faults which have been rectified. It says that unfortunately these types of units, once subjected to water, do have a number of issues relating to corrosion. The Council says the step-lift’s operation has continued to be addressed with specialist firms and that following a visit at the end of July 2023 Mr Y can now use it independently. It says this will be further improved once a specialist remote fob, which is currently on order, is available.
  15. It notes the modifications and repairs have relied on the use of specialist contractors and their associated timescales. The Council has limited control over these matters as there are only a small number of specialist companies who work in this field, and they rely on any specialist parts coming from outside the UK.
  16. The Council acknowledges there were significant problems following the installation of the step-lift and the design and functional issues that occurred. It apologises for all the issues and for the frustration and inconvenience caused to Mr Y and his family.


  1. It is clear from the documentation available, and the Council accepts, there have been extensive delays in ensuring Mr Y can enter and leave his home independently. The Council identified in late April 2022 that the adaptations provided did not meet Mr Y’s needs and would need to be modified. However, these modifications were not completed for over a year.
  2. The records also show that during this year there were extended periods when the lift was not working, and Mr Y was not able to use it even with assistance from his parents.
  3. These delays and the failure to ensure Mr Y had a working lift that met his needs so that he could enter and exit his home independently are fault.
  4. I recognise that the Council was reliant on specialist contractors and that there may have been delays in obtaining necessary parts. But this does not remove the Council’s duty to ensure the adaptations meet Mr Y’s needs and are completed to a reasonable standard. I also note there was confusion and a breakdown in communication regarding the need for a remote fob, which in itself led to a significant delay in this being ordered. Mr Y has still not received a key fob.
  5. Mr Y and Mrs X have suffered an injustice as a result of this fault. Mr Y was unable to leave and return to his home as his wished, to socialise or carry out day to day activities independently. He was reliant on others, particularly his parents to assist him and was at times housebound and isolated. Mrs X says this had a significant impact on his mental health and wellbeing.
  6. Mrs X has also experienced distress and frustration as a result of the Council’s failings and been put to unnecessary time and trouble in trying to resolve this matter.
  7. The Ombudsman has published guidance to explain how we calculate remedies for people who have suffered injustice as a result of fault by a council. Our primary aim is to put people back in the position they would have been in if the fault by the Council had not occurred.
  8. Where someone has been deprived of adaptations which would have increased their independence and improved their daily life, we may recommend the Council makes a symbolic payment to acknowledge their distress, hardship, and inconvenience. We will usually recommend a remedy payment in the range of £150 to £350 a month.
  9. In determining an appropriate level we will take account of the following factors:
    • the extent of the adaptations needed;
    • the specific circumstances of the person who needs the adaptations; and
    • the adequacy of the current arrangements.
  10. In this instance I consider a payment of £250 per month for the period May 2022 to July 2023 (15 months) would be appropriate.

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Agreed action

  1. The Council has agreed to:
    • apologise to Mr Y and pay him £3,750 in recognition of the distress and difficulties he experienced due to the failings in the Council’s service;
    • apologise to Mrs X and pay her £500 in recognition of the distress and experience she has experienced and the unnecessary time and trouble she has been put to as a result of the Council’s failings.
  2. The Council should take this action within one month of the final decision on this matter and provide us with evidence it has complied with the above actions.

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Final decision

  1. The Council’s delays and failure to ensure Mr Y had a working lift that met his needs so that he could enter and exist his home independently are fault. This fault has caused Mr Y and Mrs X an injustice.

Investigator’s final decision on behalf of the Ombudsman

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Investigator's decision on behalf of the Ombudsman

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