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Disabled woman left to sleep on sofa and rely on commode in her kitchen for two years wins compensation from council

PUBLISHED: 09:08 08 June 2019 | UPDATED: 15:19 08 June 2019

Norfolk County Council's County Hall  headquarters in Norwich. Pic: Neil Perry.

Norfolk County Council's County Hall headquarters in Norwich. Pic: Neil Perry.

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A disabled woman, who could not get upstairs in her home, so resorted to sleeping on a sofa and using a commode in a kitchen for two years, has had £3,600 compensation and an apology.

James Bullion, director of adult social care at Norfolk County Council. Picture Norfolk County CouncilJames Bullion, director of adult social care at Norfolk County Council. Picture Norfolk County Council

A watchdog ruled the woman, known as Ms X, suffered "significant injustice" due to Norfolk County Council's delay and mistakes over assessing her need for adaptations to her home and for a grant to install a stairlift.

The Local Government and Social Care Ombudsman said there was an "adverse impact" on the children of the woman, who struggles to walk more than short distances and suffered chronic fatigue after a stroke.

Her teenage son was having to empty the commode and get his mother upstairs once every seven to 10 days to use a shower over a bath. The woman strip-washed over the kitchen sink at other times.

Her daughter was having to help prepare meals, do the ironing and bathe a younger child.

Ms X, a housing association tenant, contacted the council's adult social care team in February 2017 to ask for an assessment and support as a disabled parent.

The case was referred for an assessment, but officers did not visit until June and Mrs X waited more than 12 months for an occupational therapist assessment. The ombudsman said: "That was far too long".

There was then a mistake over an application for a stairlift grant, with the council wrongly assuming Mrs X's housing association was applying for an order to evict Ms X, because she had pets. It took nine months for the council to send the recommendation for a stairlift to Ms X's housing association.

The ombudsman added the council was wrong to close the case before they knew her needs would be met, particularly as the housing association said it did not do bathing adaptations in houses and Mrs X may need to apply to be rehomed.

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The ombudsman said the council should apologise, pay her £3,600 and carry out an number of other actions.

James Bullion, executive director for adult social services at Norfolk County Council, said: "We are very sorry for the distress caused to Ms X.

"Although we provided her with funding to employ a personal assistant, and offered to install a stairlift, we completely understand that Ms X needs a property that is adapted to meet her needs.

"The delays in this case were not good enough and we have apologised and paid Ms X compensation. She now has a dedicated member of staff working with her to help ensure that she is getting the support and care that she needs."

Case highlights wider issue

The case of Ms X highlighted a need for better working so people with social care needs get support or adaptations to their homes more quickly.

One of the ombudsman's recommendations was that Norfolk County Council review its arrangements for working with local housing authorities and registered social landlords and draw up a protocol to get such adaptations done in "a timely way".

James Bullion, director for adult social services at Norfolk County Council, said: "We agree that there needs to be a clear protocol between ourselves, district councils and social landlords so that people with social care needs receive any support or adaptations to their property as quickly as possible.

"Because of the large number of housing authorities and associations in Norfolk, the ombudsman has recognised that this is a substantial piece of work and extended the deadline for completing this."

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