Lancashire County Council has apologised after a woman and her family were left living in what the LGO described as ‘significantly overcrowded conditions’ for more than a decade.
A mother of three, who also took on the care of her two grandchildren, was promised an extension to her three-bedroomed terraced house by the council as part of a Care Order granted in 2005.
The woman bought her house as agreed with the council and plans were drawn up in 2007 to add an extra bedroom and shower room, and to extend the downstairs kitchen/dining area and utility room.
However, the council only agreed a budget for the work in 2011 and then in 2016 the council told the woman the extension would no longer be built because the proposed costs had increased by £50,000.
In the meantime, the woman and her daughter slept on mattresses in the living room while the whole family slept in what the Local Government and Social Care Ombudsman described as ‘significantly overcrowded conditions’.
‘Lancashire County Council agreed to extend the woman’s property as part of a Care Order, which was made to promote the welfare of her two vulnerable grandchildren,’ said LGO Michael King.
‘The council failing to comply with the order is extremely serious, and it could have put the children’s placement at risk.
‘Throughout the period five children have grown up and become young adults – because of the overcrowding, the whole family has struggled with a lack of privacy and emotional development. The extension would have significantly improved their living conditions had it been built as agreed.
‘While the remedy we have recommended cannot make up for the long-term distress of living in such overcrowded conditions, I hope it can go some way to providing for a stable future for the family.’
The council has agreed to write and send an apology to the woman, and pay her £24,000 to reflect the avoidable distress she and her family suffered.
It will also pay her £500 for the distress and uncertainty caused by the local authority’s failure to make a decision in line with the care order on funding for a people carrier.
A spokesperson for Lancashire County Council said: ‘We have fully apologised to the person involved, and we are very sorry for the distress our failings have caused.
‘The Local Government and Social Care Ombudsman has identified a number of actions and we've drawn up a plan to address all the shortcomings that were outlined in the report.’