Sheffield City Council incorrectly assessed people for disabled blue badges, says an investigation by the Local Government and Social Care Ombudsman.
Following the investigation, the council has agreed to offer a proper assessment to more than 25 people and review its policies to avoid similar issues recurring.
The Ombudsman’s investigation stems from a complaint from a woman with arthritis who was turned down for a blue badge without being offered a face-to-face assessment. This contravened the council’s own policy and government guidance in place at the time.
When the woman appealed the council’s rejection of her application, it asked the woman’s consultant to declare she was eligible for a blue badge, instead of offering her an independent mobility assessment. The consultant could not declare she was eligible under the strict terms stated in the council’s form.
During the Ombudsman’s investigation, the council identified another 25 people who were not offered a face-to-face assessment. This was because the council had been operating an interim approach while waiting for government changes to blue badge regulations to be introduced.
During that period, the applications of people who would normally have received a face-to-face assessment, were instead decided by declarations from medical professionals.
Local Government and Social Care Ombudsman, Michael King said:
“This investigation highlights the dangers of using a box-ticking approach to assessing peoples’ eligibility for council services. In this case a number of people were denied the opportunity to be observed and have their walking ability properly assessed.
“On the other hand, this case also emphasises the power of complaints to help improve services. I welcome the way the council has responded to our investigation and the steps it is taking to put things right for all the people affected, and to avoid similar problems recurring.”
The Local Government and Social Care Ombudsman’s role is to remedy injustice and share learning from investigations to help improve public, and adult social care, services. In this case, the council has agreed to apologise to the woman, arrange an assessment by an independent physiotherapist, and pay her £250 for her time and trouble.
The Ombudsman has the power to make recommendations to improve processes for the wider public. In this case the council has agreed to contact the 25 people it found were also affected by its interim approach and offer them an assessment by a physiotherapist. It will also review the way it deals with blue badge applications so all those due a face-to-face assessment under legislation and statutory guidance, are offered one.
New regulations for blue badge assessment came into force in August 2019, and the offer of a face-to-face assessment relates to the regulations in place at the time of the complaint.
Article date: 24 October 2019