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

Mrs Y complained about the council's actions in relation to a Disabled Facilities Grant provided for her disabled son, X. The Ombudsman found the council failed to advise and signpost Mrs Y at the beginning of the process, leaving Mrs Y to oversee the build. The council then made the final payment to the contractors, despite receiving confirmation from Mrs Y that works remained outstanding. The fault caused injustice to X because the accommodation did not fully meet his identified needs. The council updated its written procedures, and paid £2,000 to X and £500 to Mrs Y for the injustice caused by the fault identified.
Mr X complained about the council's handling of his bathroom adaptation works. He complained the council did not follow the correct process for getting quotes and that it chose an inappropriate contractor. Mr X said this caused delays to his bathroom adaptation and left him without a suitable bathroom for months. The Ombudsman did not find fault with the council's actions.
Mr X complained that the council delayed and refused a second exit when he applied for a disabled facilities grant, despite two OT's recommendations. When he appealed this, his bathroom and other works were put on hold and his needs were not met in the best way. The Ombudsman found the council did not need to provide the exit but was at fault in the confusing recommendations, delays and failure to clearly explain why it was not responsible. The council arranged for the remaining work to be completed urgently
Mr N complained about a delay in processing his disabled facilities grant application, contradictory assessments and that the council misunderstood how the financial assessment worked. It also delayed implementing the Regulatory Reform Order. And did not respond to his complaint. The Ombudsman upheld the complaint about delay in processing the application and not responding to a complaint. We also found evidence of missing records and misleading advice. We recommended an apology and payment to Mr N and some improvements in the council's service.
Mrs X complained about the council's delays in dealing with a Disabled Facilities Grant, causing her avoidable distress and inconvenience. The Ombudsman found the council at fault for its delays in progressing adaptations. We recommended the council provide an apology and pay Mrs X £500 in recognition of the distress and inconvenience suffered.
The council explained to Mrs P that the initial indication of her contribution to the Disabled Facilities Grant might change. When Mrs P complained that the delay had increased her contribution because of her new pension, it offered a payment in recognition. That is sufficient to remedy any injustice.

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 2019 

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