Birmingham City Council (23 006 634)

Category : Adult care services > Disabled facilities grants

Decision : Upheld

Decision date : 03 Oct 2023

The Ombudsman's final decision:

Summary: We will not investigate this complaint about the Council delaying arranging adaptations for Mr Z, who died before adaptations were made. The Council has agreed to pay a symbolic remedy to
Mr Z’s son and granddaughter to recognise the impact on them of events.

The complaint

  1. Miss Y complained about delays in the Council arranging adaptations for her grandfather, Mr Z. She says the Council did not keep them updated and did not keep adequate records, meaning they had to repeat themselves several times. She says the adaptations did not proceed before Mr Z passed away, thus impacting on his health and causing the family stress. She says the Council has offered the family a financial remedy but she does not feel it is sufficient to recognise the impact of events. She would like the Council to pay a more suitable remedy for the family to arrange something in Mr Z’s memory.

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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 provide a free service but must use public money carefully. We may decide not to start or continue with an investigation if we are satisfied with the actions an organisation has taken or proposes to take. (Local Government Act 1974, section 24A(7), as amended)

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How I considered this complaint

  1. I considered information provided by the complainant and the Council.
  2. I considered the Ombudsman’s Assessment Code.

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My assessment

  1. Mr Z required adaptations to assist him in getting in and out of the bath. Miss X complained the Council delayed the matter for over three years, and Mr Z passed away before the adaptations were made.
  2. If we were to investigate it is likely we would find fault causing the complainant injustice because, as the Council has acknowledged, there was a significant delay in adaptations being arranged. I have taken into account the Council’s assertion there was a period where the delays were not due to fault by the Council or its contractors. I have therefore specifically considered an 18 month period of delay between mid-2021 and late 2022.
  3. If we investigated, it is likely we would decide fault by the Council caused Miss Y distress and inconvenience of chasing it, and caused Mr X distress and the additional inconvenience and discomfort of manually lifting Mr Z into the bath on a regular basis. Miss Y says this had a knock-on effect on Mr X’s health.
  4. If we investigated, it is also likely we would decide Mr Z experienced injustice, as he never received the adaptations which could have improved his quality of life. However, injustice cannot be remedied for a person who has passed away, so I have not asked the Council to provide any specific remedy to recognise Mr Z’s injustice.
  5. Through its complaints process, the Council offered to pay the family £500. However, I was not satisfied this fully recognised the impact of events on the family, in particular Mr X. I therefore invited the Council to pay an additional sum of £900. The Council agreed to do so. Therefore, it is not a good use of resources to investigate the matter further, as I am satisfied that the Council taking this action will provide a satisfactory remedy for the remaining injustice.

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Agreed action

  1. Within one month of my decision, the Council has agreed to pay:
    • £500 to Miss Y to recognise her distress and inconvenience; and
    • £900 to Mr X to recognise his distress, inconvenience and discomfort.

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Final decision

  1. We will not investigate Miss Y’s complaint because the Council has agreed to pay the family a satisfactory financial remedy to recognise the full extent of the injustice they experienced.

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Investigator's decision on behalf of the Ombudsman

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