National Ombudsmen
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Slough woman unable to access upstairs because of council grant delay

A disabled Slough woman has been forced to sleep, eat and wash in her downstairs living room because the council took too long to decide whether she can have a stairlift.

The Local Government and Social Care Ombudsman heard that the woman, who relies on care workers for personal care, has been unable to access her bedroom and bathroom unaided.

The woman applied for a disabled facilities grant (DFG) to install a stairlift to allow her to access her upstairs in May 2021. It took almost a year for Slough Borough Council to approve instead of the maximum of six months statutory guidance says it should take.

The Ombudsman’s investigation into the woman’s complaint found the council operated a points-based waiting list for adaptations, which was at odds with statutory guidance. The investigation found the waiting list appeared to be an attempt to manage a backlog and circumvent the requirement to assess applications within the six-month time limit.

Michael King, Local Government and Social Care Ombudsman, said:

“Disabled Facilities Grants are there to provide adaptations so people can live in their own homes with dignity. Sadly in this case, the council’s delays have had a direct impact on the woman’s mental wellbeing – she has had to wash and toilet in a room that directly opens onto the street and has told me she ‘dreams of having a hot bath in privacy before bed and being able to use the toilet like a human being’.

“I’m pleased the council is now minded to accept my report’s recommendations. I hope this will ensure other people in Slough who have need of adaptations to their homes will not be faced with undue delay.”

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 should apologise and pay the woman £250 for her time and trouble in pursuing the matter. It should also pay her £3,300 to recognise the distress she experienced because of the delay.

The Ombudsman has the power to make recommendations to improve processes for the wider public. In this case the council should immediately end its DFG minor works waiting list and process applications in line with statutory timeframes.

It should also complete its review of the DFG policy considering new non-statutory guidance and review its arrangements with local housing associations to ensure that works undertaken are done so in a cost effective and timely manner.

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