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.
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.
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 commissioned guidance for councils and health authorities about good practice in providing these services. The basic principles in “Home adaptations for disabled people: a detailed guide to related legislation, guidance and good practice” are:
- meeting disabled people’s needs sensitively, efficiently and cost-effectively
- individualised solutions not barriers
- using the 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
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
Other sources of information
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.