Slough Borough Council has apologised and made a payment of £3,550 to a resident for failing to provide a Disabled Facilities Grant (DFG) in a timely manner, to enable a chair lift to be installed at her property. This failure meant the resident was unable to access the first floor of her property independently for more than a year.
An investigation by the Local Government and Social Care Ombudsman (LGSCO), after a complaint by the resident, led to the council being found to have caused an injustice to the resident. This failure was caused by the operation of a waiting list to submit applications for DFGs which is at odds with the guidance - “Home adaptations for disabled people: a detailed guide to related legislation, guidance and good practice,” published by the Homes Adaptations Consortium in 2013, which prohibits the use of priority systems to manage demand.
The LGSCO took the unusual step of issuing a public interest report due to the significant fault and injustice caused and a concern that there was a systemic problem with wider learning required.
The LGSCO have made the following recommendations which have been accepted in full by the council, as well as apologising to the resident and paying her £3,550.
- Immediately end the DFG minor works waiting list and process applications for all those on the waiting list in line with the statutory timeframes.
- Complete its review of the DFG policy, taking account of new non-statutory guidance "Disabled Facilities Grant (DFG) delivery: Guidance for local authorities in England.”
- The Council should ensure any future policies do not include any local priority systems intended to, or with the effect of, managing demand or creating waiting times beyond the statutory timescales. It should also ensure any future policies are approved by Cabinet, having been through legal and financial officer clearance.
- Review its arrangements with local housing associations to ensure that works undertaken to these properties can be undertaken in a cost effective and timely manner.
The council has reviewed its policies and will also be formally reporting on these and the Public Interest Report at its Cabinet meeting on 21 November 2022. The reports to this meeting ask elected members to agree the lessons learned and action taken in response. The council’s People Scrutiny Panel has also agreed to set up a task and finish group to review the council’s complaints procedures against the LGSCO’s best practice guidance.
Marc Gadsby, Executive Director, People (Adults), said: “We welcome the report from the Local Government and Social Care Ombudsman and have put in place the recommendations detailed within it. As part of those recommendations a change in policy is being implemented regarding the way Disabilities Facilities Grants applications are assessed, to ensure they are processed in a timely manner, helping our residents receive the adaptations needed for them to live independently, as soon as possible.”
Councillor Natasa Pantelic, cabinet member for social care and public health, said: “On behalf of Slough Borough Council, I would like to apologise unreservedly to this resident. Our staff work extremely hard to make sure everyone receives the help they need, but in this case, we did not get it right. Our focus now is on taking the recommendations from the LGSCO and improving our policy and service to ensure this doesn’t happen again. We will continue to work with this resident to make sure her needs are being met."