London Borough of Haringey at fault for delays in assessment then delays in providing the required aids and equipment

Decision Date: 22nd September 2020

What happened

Mrs B who made this complaint, had had her leg amputated in March 2018. In February 2019 her landlord contacted the Council to tell them that Mrs B struggled with her mobility and needed support.  Four months later, the Council contacted Mrs B.  By that time Mrs B had moved to live in her caravan, where it had ramp access and was on one level. She found the caravan more suitable to her needs, as when she was at home she felt trapped.

In July 2019, Mrs B moved back home and was assessed by an occupational therapist (OT), who recommended:

  • a raised toilet seat and rails in the bathroom
  • a bed lever
  • a couch raiser
  • adaptation to front entrance to enable ramp access for a wheelchair, as the footpath in front of the main door was too narrow to use a portable ramp.

The toilet seat and bed lever arrived soon, but the provider could not fit the bathroom grab rail or raise the sofa. The Council notes showed that they were aware a subsequent visit to resolve the issues was required.

It took 7 months for the Council to fit the grab rail and sofa riser. There was no evidence that the Council attempted to chase up these items or revisit Mrs B before they were fitted.

The ramp that was originally recommended was deemed unsuitable for the property. However, the Council could not identify a suitable alternative because Mrs B’s OT had left the Council. Mrs B was placed on a waiting list until another OT could be allocated, which did not happen until November 2019.  

The Council visited in November to review the property and gained permission from the landlord to do the required work.

There was delay in getting the quote from the ramp company because it had not included internal works, and a further one-month delay as Mrs B was away for Christmas.

The ramp was fitted nine months after the OT assessed Mrs B needed it. All recommended aids were properly fitted by the end of April 2020.

What was found

The Council took 4 months to contact Mrs B after the initial referral which was too long for a person struggling with day to day living and therefore fault.

The seven-month delay to follow up unsuitable or unworkable adaptations was unreasonable and there was no evidence the Council attempted to chase the equipment or arrange a visit with Mrs B. This was fault.

The Council said some delays were caused by awaiting the quote from the ramp company. However there was no evidence the Council or ramp company contacted Mrs B to arrange to visit the property to see the internal threshold. So any delay was caused by the Council, or the contractor acting on its behalf.

Injustice was cause by these faults because they resulted in Mrs B feeling very isolated. Mrs B did not have the necessary equipment to help her, so she struggled to manage. Mrs B felt she had no choice but to stay in her caravan for extended periods of time. She also said that she developed depression.  

To remedy these faults the LGO recommended the Council apologise to Mr and Mrs B for the delays, and pay them £250 in recognition of the impact it had on their mental wellbeing.

Points to note for councils, professionals, people who use services and their carers, advocacy providers, members of the public

There are no timescales in the Care Act or the guidance: the OT service is a Cinderella service and it is regarded in the sector culture as acceptable to make someone wait, rather than obtain the expertise from an agency or an outside assessor.

An assessment can be paused for prevention and reduction services and access to aids and adaptations is an obvious route to reducing impact on a person before they are even assessed, and preventing foreseeable deterioration. But there are simply insufficient equipment assessors in the sphere.

Readers will be interested to note that there is no possibility of compensation for delay in this regard outside of the LGSCO system, via, for instance a court case. There is no financial remedy for breach of statutory duty; indeed, there IS no breach, if there is no timescale imposed by the statute. There have been cases brought where people have even suffered harm as a result of delay and senior judges have refused to regard it as Parliament’s intention that any remedy other than a public law one should exist. Since it takes a long time to get a judicial review going, one can see why the LGSCO is so very important for members of the public who can’t afford legal risk or legal advice.

We are aware that councils have limited resources with which to respond to the demands of assessments and care planning. However, the processing duties under the Care Act 2014 remain so, regardless of resourcing.

If you want help, please consider seeking advice from CASCAIDr via our referral form on the top bar menu of the site.

The full Local Government Ombudsman report of London Borough of Haringey’s actions can be found here https://www.lgo.org.uk/decisions/adult-care-services/assessment-and-care-plan/19-014-205

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