Woman left trapped in home because of poor council assisted bin collection service

Thurrock bin crews have repeatedly trapped a wheelchair user in her home when they have not returned her bins to their proper place, the Local Government and Social Care Ombudsman (LGSCO) has found.

The LGSCO has investigated three separate complaints from the woman since 2019 about how Thurrock Council provides her assisted bin collections. Assisted collections are offered to people who cannot move their bins to the kerbside by themselves.

The woman said her bins were frequently missed by collection crews, and at times when they were collected, they were not returned to the right place or left blocking her driveway. As a wheelchair user, this meant she could not leave her house until someone moved the bins as she could not do so herself.

Thurrock Council has now agreed to carry out a review of bin complaints to identify whether it has any ongoing problems with the collection service it offers to people with disabilities.

Ms Amerdeep Somal, Local Government and Social Care Ombudsman, said:

“This woman has reported issues with her bin collections for four years. While this might seem a minor irritation for some, it has had a significant impact on her freedom, dignity, and ability to maintain a normal life. She tells us that when the bins have been returned to the wrong place or left blocking her driveway, she has had to call on friends and relatives to help or make calls to the council just so she can leave her home.

“It’s clear in this case the council’s efforts to improve the service for this woman just haven’t worked long-term, and the monitoring it put in place has not resolved the situation.

“I’m now asking the council to apologise to the woman, offer her a meeting with a senior manager and fully review all the service complaints it has received about its assisted collections service to identify any trends.

“I hope this will encourage the council to treat this issue seriously and ensure there is a proper solution for people with additional needs in its area.”

The Local Government and Social Care Ombudsman remedies injustice and shares learning from investigations to help improve public, and adult social care, services. In this case the council has agreed to apologise to the woman and pay her £350 to recognise the distress caused by its failings. It will also offer the woman a meeting with a senior manager to discuss the issues and the action it has taken, and report back to the Ombudsman what this is.

The Ombudsman has the power to make recommendations to improve processes for the wider public. In this case the council has agreed to review service requests and complaints about assisted bin collections over the last six months. If these show there are wider problems with the way it delivers its assisted bin collection service to its residents, it will consider what changes can be made to improve the service.

Article date: 20 February 2024

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