Councils administering Disabled Facilities Grants need to ensure their processes are transparent and accountable, Ombudsman says.
The Local Government and Social Care Ombudsman issued the reminder following a complaint about Birmingham City Council, in which a family including a child with disabilities was left without the home adaptations they needed because of confusion around who was responsible for the work.
Disabled facilities grants are provided by local councils to adapt people’s homes to accommodate their specific needs. In most areas councils provide a grant for people to commission their own builders to complete the work.
In Birmingham, the council provided the grant, and had a list of approved contractors. But the Ombudsman found the authority did not have the policies and procedures in place to say what its responsibilities were for any work carried out.
This meant when the family’s development ran into difficulties it was not clear what action the council should take to investigate.
‘In any area of work, good administrative practice dictates councils should ensure they have clear and accessible policies and procedures in place, and decisions are recorded properly,’ said Michael King, Local Government and Social Care Ombudsman.
‘In this case, because of a lack of transparency in its process and contracts, it became unclear whether it was the council or the householder who was responsible for ensuring the contractor’s work was up to standard. Because of this, the relationship between the council, contractors and the householder deteriorated, and the family is still without the adaptations the child needs.’
Birmingham City Council has agreed to apologise to the family and pay them £1,000 to recognise the distress, uncertainty and impact the delays have had on the child.