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Family of disabled boy left without housing adaptations because of council delay

Haringey council took so long to complete adaptations to a disabled boy’s home that he had outgrown the proposals, a Local Government and Social Care Ombudsman investigation has heard.

The boy, who has severe disabilities, was initially assessed as needing the adaptations in 2015 which included a through floor lift, a ceiling track hoist system and changing benches in the bathroom and downstairs toilet.

Delays because of the council and family’s circumstances meant no progress was made until the start of 2019. But when a contractor attempted to carry out the work, they found it not feasible because of structural issues.

By the time the family and council spoke again about installing the adaptations, the family said they would like a revised plan because so much time had passed, and their son had grown since the original assessment. An occupational therapist (OT) visited and, despite the family saying a deep bath was an ‘essential requirement’, recommended a shower trolley instead.

The family complained to the council that the OT’s recommendation was in direct conflict with a previous assessment which stated their son was unable to tolerate a shower as the sensation distressed him. They said they also felt bullied into accepting the recommendations, despite explaining a shower bench was unsafe because of their son’s involuntary movements.

The family has been shielding since March 2020 and no progress has been made. They say they just want the ceiling tracks for the hoists installed and no longer want the adaptations made to the downstairs toilet.

The Ombudsman’s investigation criticised the council for its part in the delays between October 2016 and February 2019. There were further delays between February 2019 and September 2019 – particularly in installing the changing benches which should have been put in at the time of the initial work.

The Ombudsman also criticised the council for not fully involving the family and considering their concerns, leading them to feel they could not challenge the decision or seek an alternative option.

Michael King, Local Government and Social Care Ombudsman, said:

“This case highlights the importance of carrying out adaptations to properties in a timely fashion, particularly where growing children are concerned.

“For much of the time the council did not keep in contact with the family to let them know about progress – so they were left not knowing what was going to happen and when. At the very least, the council should have put in place interim solutions while the major work was being sorted out.

“This has led to a breakdown in communication and trust between the family and the council, particularly when new recommendations contradicted previous assessments.

“The council now needs to consider my report and put in place the remedies I have recommended.”

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 should apologise to the parents and pay them £2,000 to recognise the delay. It should also contact the parents about the outstanding works.

The Ombudsman has the power to make recommendations to improve processes for the wider public. The council has already carried out a recommended review to identify where it could improve its service in this area

Article date: 09 December 2021