Northampton Council criticised for refusing disabled facilities grant

Northampton Borough Council wrongly refused a disabled facilities grant (DFG) application for an extension so a disabled man could access bathing facilities.

Northampton Borough Council wrongly refused a disabled facilities grant (DFG) application for an extension so a disabled man could access bathing facilities, finds Local Government Ombudsman, Dr Jane Martin. In her report, issued today, she says that, although the grant for an extension appeared to meet all relevant criteria, the Council refused it because the applicants lived in a privately rented property without a secure tenancy.

A couple applied to the Council for assistance in adapting their home, which they had rented for over 20 years, to enable the husband, who suffers a degenerative medical condition, to access bathing facilities. Two occupational therapists assessed him as needing an extension to the house so he could be cared for and bathed. The Council’s assessment was that the extension was necessary and appropriate to meet the applicant’s needs. Planning permission was granted for the extension.

The Council then refused the grant application. It offered alternative housing, installed a stair lift and a wet room, but continued to refuse the extension originally envisaged.

The complainants feel they were misled by the Council into believing they had to consider moving to a council-owned property, although they did not want to move. The current arrangements have made the home cramped, affecting the whole family. They did not think any of the council properties offered had been suitable, and say it is unfair they are being treated differently from a home owner.

The Ombudsman said “In my view it was maladministration to refuse the DFG on the grounds that are not permitted under the HGCRA [Housing Grants, Construction and Regeneration Act] 1996. This has led to a delay in providing the provision originally assessed as being required to meet [the complainant]’s needs which has given rise to considerable stress and anxiety and left them living in very difficult conditions.” She adds that it was a “considerable injustice” and recommends the Council to pay £5,000 compensation.

The Ombudsman finds maladministration causing injustice and recommends that the Council should:

  • pay the complainants £5,000 to compensate them for their distress and inconvenience and £250 for the time and inconvenience in pursuing their complaint
  • engage an independent occupational therapist to review the husband’s current needs
  • consider the occupational therapist’s conclusions
  • provide funding for any provision identified
  • provide funding for respite care for the couple while any works are completed
  • review its procedures, and
  • provide training to ensure that staff are aware of what is appropriate for considering applications for disabled facilities grants.

Report ref no 10 009 338

Article date: 28 October 2011