How Local Authorities are Failing The Disabled in Our Society
A recent report realised by the Local Government Ombudsman has attempted to ascertain the reason as to why the body receives more than one hundreds complaints a year from disabled citizens who are waiting for adaptations in their home to be provided in order to allow them the quality of life that is afforded to everyone else in the country.
However, it appears that the issue could have been avoided if it were not for a distinct lack of communication between local housing and social care groups, which resulted in numerous complaints about the Disabled Facilities Grants, and inevitably, individuals having to consult community care lawyers for advice on the correct steps to take in seeking a resolution. The Disabled Facilities Grants are grants that make a huge difference to the lives of people living with disabilities and are used to provide funding for necessary adaptations that exceed costs that are in the region of £1,000 or above.
One account, that was included in the report, highlights the fact that an individual’s parents were unable to access the upstairs bathroom in their own home for six months due to the fact that the council could not agree on what proper adaptations were required.
This dispute occurred due to the fact that the individual’s parents wanted a ground floor extension to the be installed in their home but the council wanted to have a lift installed due to the fact that it was significantly cheaper than installing the extension. However, the mother suffered with problems with her balance and had a debilitating fear of heights; despite this the council did not consider this to be adequate and instead referred the couple to have a lift installed in their home. Eventually an additional assessment was conducted and concluded that a lift should be installed in the property and arrangements were made to extend the ground floor. This dispute led to the work required being delayed by 6 months and the council compensating the couple £1,000 due to the fact that they were unable to access their upstairs bathroom.
It appears that in this instance there was a clear intention to save as much money as possible on any work to be carried out, even if it meant that the husbands and wife’s quality of life would be majorly impacted upon. While we are all aware of the fact that councils across the UK have had their budgets cut by billions and there is again to be a 6.7% funding cut between 2016-2020. However, surely local authorities should realise that providing home adaptations is actually cost-effective due to the fact that it avoids having to pay for residential care for members of society. It also ensures that those who are disabled have the quality of life that they deserve and do not have to endure the brunt of the ever-increased number of cuts being imposed on the most vulnerable in society by the current government.
The ombudsman also made recommendations that local authorities build close links with the voluntary and independent sectors in order to explore further funding options when appropriate. This will be particularly helpful in instances where an applicant has seen their application rejected or where the cost of the work required exceeds the maximum spend threshold for a grant.