Council Criticised for Failure to Provide Elderly Man with Shower

Watchdog says it should have carried out assessment

Wandsworth Civic Centre

August 11, 2023

A man claimed Wandsworth Council failed to install a shower for his father in his ‘unsafe’ home where he has fallen over twice. A watchdog probe found the local authority should have made a referral for an occupational therapist to assess the father’s living situation after his son raised concerns.

The father, named Mr D in the Local Government and Social Care Ombudsman report, also claimed the temporary accommodation he is living in with family is “unsuitable” for his needs. The council accepted it had a main housing duty towards him in 2018, placed him in band B on the housing register and said he qualified for a six-bed home, according to the report.

His family raised concerns to their local MP about the length of time they had been living in temporary accommodation. The council said some of the adults could make a separate application instead, which would cut the number of bedrooms needed and could affect how long they would have to wait to be rehoused, the report said.

After Mr D’s daughter moved out, the council reassessed his housing application and said he needed a four-bed instead, according to the report, which changed his position to 76th in the queue.

But Mr D’s son, referred to as Mr E, complained to the council about how it was handling his housing situation and claimed his position on the housing register had got worse. He later claimed to the council Mr D had fallen twice in the home and it was “unsafe for him”. He asked the authority to replace the bathtub with a shower.

But the council said it needed a recommendation from a professional before it could make adaptations to the property. Mr E complained he was “unhappy it had failed to install a shower”.

The report ruled, “Councils must keep the suitability of temporary accommodation under review. If there is a change of circumstances councils must reconsider whether the accommodation remains suitable. Mr D has raised concerns the property is no longer suitable for him. Specifically, he says he has fallen, and he needs a shower rather than a bath.

“The council told Mr D to get a referral from his GP or a recommendation from an occupational therapist before it would explore the issues further. However, as it is the council’s responsibility to ensure homeless households are provided with suitable temporary accommodation, it should have made a referral for an occupational therapist to assess Mr D’s living situation.”

The report said the council’s faults caused Mr D “some uncertainty about whether his living situation would have been any different if it had acted sooner”.

It said the council also accepted it could have given the family more information about the impact of splitting their housing application so they could have made a “fully informed decision”. But it found the average wait time for Mr D to be rehoused had “significantly improved” as a result.

The report said, “When the council responded to my enquiries, it explained the average wait time for an applicant who requires a four-bedroom property is 57 months. The average wait time for an applicant who requires a six-bedroom property is 100 months.”

The ombudsman ordered the council to apologise to Mr D, pay him D £150 and ask a medical professional to assess the suitability of his temporary accommodation.

A Wandsworth Council spokesperson said, “We have accepted the ombudsman’s conclusion in this case and agreed to apologise to the complaint and pay him £150 in compensation.”

Charlotte Lilywhite - Local Democracy Reporter