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 and housing departments and the provision of grant funding. We can look at complaints about these. 

If you are a council tenant, your landlord might have a different scheme for adapting its own properties. However, you can still apply for a Disabled Facilities Grant. You may be able to complain to both this Ombudsman and the Housing Ombudsman Service. If your complaint is about the actions of both a social landlord and the local authority, the Housing Ombudsman and the Local Government and Social Care Ombudsman may decide to do a joint investigation.

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.

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.

Usually, you should complain to us within 12 months of when you first knew about the problem. If you leave it any later, we may not be able to help.

For more information on how to complain, please read our step by step process

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.

The Government issued guidance for councils about delivering DFG funded adaptations. The guidance sets out policy frameworks, legislative duties and powers, and recommended best practice, in one place.

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 without proper access to the facilities in their home for longer than they should.

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 complaints we have considered

Miss X complained that the adaptations agreed by the council did not fully meet her children’s needs. The council had followed the correct steps in deciding what it would fund and agreed the adaptations recommended by an occupational therapist. We did not investigate this complaint because there was insufficient evidence of fault by the council.
Mrs X complained the council refused to carry out adaptations to her council owned property to meet the needs of her disabled child. The council was at fault in its refusal to allow Mrs X to apply for a disabled facilities grant. As a result, the family missed the opportunity to apply for a grant. The council has agreed to apologise and make a payment of £750 to Mrs X, offer her the opportunity to apply for a disabled facilities grant, and review its procedures.
Mr X complained the council did not deal with a Disabled Facilities Grant properly. The council was at fault because it did not consider the duties it owed to Mr X properly. The council offered to apologise, make service improvements, update a Child and Family Assessment, consider any evidence of adaption costs including whether any duty was owed under Section 17 of the Children's Act 1989 and Section 2 of the Chronically Sick and Disabled Persons Act 1970 and pay Mr X £300 for time and trouble. The council should also pay Mr X £500 for distress and provide a report.
Miss X complained about how the council dealt with her occupational therapy assessment. The council was at fault as it delayed in carrying out an occupational therapy assessment, delayed in pursuing the recommendations of the assessment and delayed in responding to Miss X’s complaint. The delays caused distress, frustration and avoidable time and trouble to Miss X which the council agreed to remedy by apologising and making a payment of £1,000 to her and taking further action.
Ms B said the council’s criteria for deciding children’s disabled facilities grants was discriminatory and delayed her access to the process. The council recognised its policy could be misleading and needed reviewing. We do not know whether this means it would have dealt with Ms B’s application any differently. When dealing with Ms B’s complaint the council did not allow sufficient time for Ms B to respond and clarify the complaint summary, but this was resolved at the next stage of the complaint process. To put things right the council will apologise to Ms B, review its policy and processes, and progress her application without delay.
Mr B complained about the actions of the council in respect of work done by a contractor in his home under a Disabled Facilities Grant (DFG). He said the contractor did not advise him correctly causing him to throw away items which could have been reused. We found the council was not responsible for the actions of the contractor, beyond ensuring the works were completed satisfactorily but its communication with Mr B could have been clearer and provided more quickly. The council has agreed to pay Mr B £100 and improve the information it provides DFG recipients for the future.

Other sources of information

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..

January 2024

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