The Ombudsman's final decision:
Summary: Mr X complained the Council improperly carried out adaptations he needed to safely walk around in his garden. He said the Council’s actions have caused him inconvenience. There was no fault in the Council’s management of the adaptations.
- Mr X complained Council arranged to have adaptations made to his back garden which were unsafe and inappropriate for his needs.
- He said the matter has caused him inconvenience and put him to time and trouble.
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)
- 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 contacted Mr X and discussed his view of the complaint.
- I made enquiries with the Council and considered the information it provided.
This included, Mr X’s small works grant application, Mr X’s complaint form, the Council’s chronology, Mr X’s care and support plan review and pictures of Mr X’s garden.
- I wrote to Mr X and the Council with the draft decision. I considered Mr X’s comments before I made the final decision.
What I found
- Sections 9 and 10 of the Care Act 2014 require local authorities to carry out an assessment for any adult who may have a need for care and support.
- To have needs which are eligible for support, the needs must be related to a physical or mental impairment.
- Because of the needs, the adult must be unable to achieve two or more of the following:
- managing and maintaining nutrition
- maintaining personal hygiene
- being able to make use of the adult’s home safely
- maintaining a habitable home environment
Small works grant
- Vulnerable and disabled people can apply to the Council for a small works grant for up to £7000 for repairs or for works that will significantly improve the person’s living experience.
- Mr X is registered blind. He lives in a property managed by a housing association. Mr X’s 2019 care and support plan states he can move around independently but requires level access to all rooms.
- In 2018, Mr X told the Council his patio was uneven and a trip hazard. He successfully applied for a small works grant and the Council arranged for contractors to pave the patio to make it safer for Mr X.
- The contractors paved over Mr X’s garden with concrete on 15 April 2019. Mr X says his support worker and friends told him the paving was not completed correctly and he complained about this.
- A surveyor inspected the work on 15 May 2019 and noted the following, “There are two minor areas where works are required…can we have the joins between slabs sealed… the area around the access cover also needs to be made good.” Contractors returned to Mr X’s property twice in May 2019 to fill in the gaps in the paving and level the draining cover. A contractor also visited Mr X’s property on 17 June and 14 August 2019 to carry out further work. The Council says this work represented finishing touches rather than correction of the original work.
- In May 2020 Mr X contacted the surveyor and said weeds were growing between the joints in the paving slabs. The surveyor visited Mr X’s property and applied weed killer to the affected areas. The surveyor took photos of the patio and did not identify any issues stating, “visited courtyard and applied weed-killer to small number of weeds growing.”
- Mr X complained to the Council on 5 August 2020. He said the weeds growing in the paving gaps presented a trip hazard for him, and he could not prune them due to his disability. Mr X’s support worker also wrote to the Council and said weeds were growing between the paving slabs.
- The Council contacted the contractors to discuss the material used to fill in the paving gaps. The contractor said, “There is nothing more we can do…grass will always grow, nothing can be done apart from pull it out or put weed killer on it.”
- The Council visited Mr X’s home on 10 August 2020. The inspector told Mr X it was not possible to have a weed free garden and windblown seeds were causing the weeds. The Council said the contractor confirmed the paving was completed correctly and there was nothing further they could do. The Council suggested contacting its social services department to weed the garden.
- Mr X was unhappy with the Council’s response. He did not agree the weeds were caused by wind blown seeds and said the contractors failed to prepare the ground properly before paving. He said the contractors had to come back to repair their work which was evidence the work was not completed properly. Mr X asked the Council to lay concrete over the garden to stop weeds from growing.
- On 5 October 2020, the Council responded to Mr X’s complaint and told him a visual impairment officer reviewed the pictures of his front garden and did not agree the weeds were hazardous to his mobility. The Council suggested Mr X enlist his support worker to aid him in maintaining the garden area and told him to contact his housing association for further assistance.
- Mr X escalated his complaint to Stage 2 of the Council’s complaints process on 25 November 2020.
- The Council responded to Mr X on 22 January 2021. The Council said it was satisfied the contractors completed the paving work correctly. The Council explained there was a 12-month warranty in place which allowed the contractors to return to his home twice to complete further work on the paving. The Council said Mr X’s housing association was responsible for the future maintenance of his home and advised him to ask a friend or family member to weed the garden.
- The Council sent another inspector to visit Mr X in May 2021, who concurred that further work was not needed, and the paving was completed correctly.
- Mr X brought his complaint to the Ombudsman as he remained unhappy with the Council’s response.
- Mr X complains the Council failed to ensure the contractors properly paved his garden. He believes the weeds are evidence of this. It is not the Ombudsman’s role to determine whether the paving was carried out correctly; this is the Council’s responsibility. The Ombudsman’s role is to assess whether the Council acted with fault in the way it managed Mr X’s small works grant application and responded to his complaint.
- The evidence shows the Council responded to Mr X’s application by enlisting contractors to pave his garden and give him the level access he requires as stated in his care and support plan. After Mr X complained the Council liaised with the contractors and sent them to complete work as recommended by the surveyor. The surveyor has revisited the property and was satisfied the paving was complete. The Council’s vision impairment officer looked at photographs of the garden and arrived at the same conclusion. Having reviewed the photographs, I am satisfied the pictures were clear enough for the officer to make this decision. The Council has sent officers to inspect the garden and they have agreed that the paving work is complete. The Council has handled this matter in the manner I would expect. I do not consider it fair to hold the Council responsible for weed growth. There is no evidence of fault in the way the Council made the decision it was satisfied with the paving work. There is no fault in the Council’s actions.
- There was no fault in the Council’s actions. I have therefore completed the investigation.
Investigator's decision on behalf of the Ombudsman