Housing adaptations for people with disabilities

This fact sheet is for people with disabilities (or someone caring for them) who are experiencing problems with adaptation to their home and may be considering making a complaint to the Ombudsman.

I have a problem with adaptations to my home to make it suitable for me. Can the Ombudsman help me?

In some cases, yes. By law the council may be responsible for providing help to people with a wide range of disabilities. This is to enable them to move in and out of their homes, to access and use living and sleeping areas, cooking, bathing, and toilet facilities within the home.

This may involve the council's adults or children's services departments and the provision of grant funding. We can look at complaints about these. 

But complaints about the actions of a housing landlord - whether that is the local authority or a housing association - are dealt with by the Housing Ombudsman Service (see "other sources of information" below). Where a complaint involves the actions of both the landlord and the local authority, we may decide to carry out a joint investigation with the Housing Ombudsman.

When other organisations (for example home improvement agencies and voluntary organisations) are involved in delivering adaptations, we can look into their actions only if they are taken on behalf of the council.

The Government commissioned guidance for councils and health authorities about good practice in providing these services (see "other sources of information" below).

The basic principles are:

  • meeting disabled people's needs sensitively, efficiently and cost-effectively
  • individualised solutions not barriers
  • using skills and experiences of a wide range of disciplines
  • seamless, joined-up services, including providers working together and joint protocols and agreements between housing and social care, and
  • specified, minimal time frames made explicit at the outset.

How do I complain?

You should normally complain to the council first. Councils often have more than one stage in their complaints procedure and you will usually have to complete all stages before we will look at your complaint.

Then, if you are unhappy with the result, or the council is taking too long to look into the matter - we think 12 weeks is reasonable - you can complain to us.

You should normally make your complaint to us within 12 months of realising that the council has done something wrong.

For more information on how to complain, visit our contact page or complete an online complaint form.

If you can consider my complaint what will the Ombudsman look for?

We consider whether the council has done something wrong in the way it went about dealing with your request for adaptations or help with them which has caused you problems. Some of the issues we can look at are whether the council:

  • failed to give you information you should have
  • failed to assess your need for adaptations
  • failed to consider some relevant information in an assessment
  • delayed in dealing with your request for help
  • failed to provide a service or adaptation which it had decided you need
  • failed to tell you about a decision it had reached
  • did not tell you how to challenge a decision if you disagree with it, or
  • did not keep you informed, or failed to reply to letter, emails, and telephone calls.

What happens if the Ombudsman finds the council was at fault?

It depends on what the fault was and what consequences it had for you. Sometimes things go wrong but do not affect the outcome. And sometimes the faults mean that someone has struggled on without proper access to the facilities in their home for longer than they should have done.

Where we find fault with the council's procedure we will often ask the council to make changes so the same problem does not occur again. Where the consequences of what happened have been significant, we can recommend that the council takes action to put the matter right.

Sometimes, delay can make a situation worse, so we can ask the council to take some extra action which wouldn't have been needed if it had done everything properly  first.

Sometimes it will be appropriate for the council to make a payment to acknowledge the distress its actions have caused, and for the impact of unreasonable delay. The amount we ask for would depend on exactly how you have been affected. We can also take account of whether here was any action you took which made the situation worse, or action you could have taken to improve matters.

Examples of some complaints we have considered

Ms X complained about the way the council dealt with a contractor she used to carry out works under a Disabled Facilities Grant (DFG). She also complained that the council failed to monitor the progress and quality of the works properly. The work the council funded was part of a larger project Ms X funded privately. The Council was not at fault in relation to the DFG. Investigation into part of the complaint was discontinued as it concerned building control and the Ombudsman could not achieve the outcome Ms X is looking for.
The council avoidably delayed in taking action to resolve matters related to funding significant adaptations to a property above the level of the DFG amount. This fault caused injustice in the form of distress and loss of opportunity which the council recognised by apologising and making a payment of £1000 to Mr F. It also introduced service improvements to ensure that faults identified in the coordination of assessments do not occur in future.
The Ombudsman upheld parts of the complaint from Ms X about the way the council has handled an application for a Disabled Facilities Grant for her children. The council was not at fault for suggesting alternatives to adapting the property and was not at fault for placing limits on what the grant would pay for. However, it delayed in appointing an architect, raised Ms X's expectations and has not communicated effectively. The council apologised to Ms X and paid her and her children in recognition of the distress and frustration this caused. It also reminded staff to check any proposed works meet the needs of the applicant before issuing plans and will appoint a key contact for each application.
Mr B complained that the council had not decided whether to make adaptions to Mr C's home. He said the council had three years to decide and not doing so caused uncertainty and distress to Mr C's family. The Ombudsman found fault and recommended the council make a decision within a month.
There was fault by the council. It did not consider whether it could waive the amount repayable for a DFG on the grounds that Mrs B was selling the property due to the impact on her wellbeing. This left Mrs B uncertain as to whether the council properly considered her situation. The council reconsidered Mrs B's request and wrote to her with the reasons for its decision
The council was not at fault when it decided not to pay a Disabled Facilities Grant because builders had completed the eligible works before Mrs X returned the grant application form.

Other sources of information

You can contact the Housing Ombudsman Service at www.housing-ombudsman.org.uk by telephone on 0300 111 3000, or by email at info@housing-ombudsman.org.uk

Delivering housing adaptations for disabled people, a good practice guide published in October 2013 by Care and Repair England, is available from careandrepair-england.org.uk/wp-content/uploads/2014/12/DFG-Good-Practice-Guide-30th-Sept-13.pdf.

Our fact sheets give some general information about the most common type of complaints we receive but they cannot cover every situation. If you are not sure whether we can look into your complaint, please contact us.

We provide a free, independent and impartial service. We consider complaints about the administrative actions of councils and some other authorities. We cannot question what a council has done simply because someone does not agree with it. If we find something has gone wrong, such as poor service, service failure, delay or bad advice and that a person has suffered as a result we aim to get it put right by recommending a suitable remedy..

October 2020 

Privacy settings

LGO logogram

Review your privacy settings

Required cookies

These cookies enable the website to function properly. You can only disable these by changing your browser preferences, but this will affect how the website performs.

View required cookies

Analytical cookies

Google Analytics cookies help us improve the performance of the website by understanding how visitors use the site.
We recommend you set these 'ON'.

View analytical cookies

In using Google Analytics, we do not collect or store personal information that could identify you (for example your name or address). We do not allow Google to use or share our analytics data. Google has developed a tool to help you opt out of Google Analytics cookies.