The Housing Ombudsman has found severe maladministration for how Stevenage Council failed to repair or replace a disabled resident’s faulty door entry system. Despite it knowing it was the only way for the emergency services to be able to attend to him.
Due to the fault, the fire brigade had to accompany the ambulance on numerous occasions due to the inability to access the flat.
The resident experienced worry and anxiety during the case and said he is still extremely distressed by the experience, feeling that he was treated as if ‘his life did not matter’.
The landlord was told multiple times by the resident throughout the 18 months about the impact it was having on him, yet little action was taken. When options were provided to the resident, it was often far too late or not followed up.
There is also no indication the landlord considered the resident’s disabilities or its obligations under the Equality Act 2010 during this period, with no referrals from officers as part of its Aids and Adaptations policy.
The Ombudsman ordered a director at the landlord to apologise to the resident and review its handling of the defective intercom setting out an action plan to prevent future failure. A separate review was ordered for the landlord to improve its complaint handling. The resident was awarded £1,250 in compensation.
In its learning from the case, the landlord says it has introduced a team of dedicated Strategic Complaint Managers who are each responsible for an area of housing.
Richard Blakeway, Housing Ombudsman, said: “This investigation shows how what on paper was a routine repair had significant and avoidable impact on a resident because the landlord failed to consider his disability.
“The landlord became immersed in process without considering a key policy it should have – its Aids and Adaptations procedure together with its obligations under the Equality Act.
“These failings meant for 18 months vital emergency service help which could save the resident’s life was impeded without fire brigade’s intervention.
“While the formal complaints procedure did result in the outstanding repair being made, the landlord failed to recognise the impact and anxiety caused to the resident and did not offer an apology.
“This investigation underscores the importance of landlords recording and responding to vulnerabilities which will be a core focus of our next Spotlight report.”
In all cases of severe maladministration, the Ombudsman invites the landlord to provide a learning statement.
Stevenage Council learning statement
We always aim to work collaboratively with our tenants and once issues are reported to resolve these as efficiently and effectively as possible. Sadly, on this occasion, it would appear that this resident hasn’t received an adequate service, for which we sincerely apologise.
We acknowledge that this case was not dealt with in the appropriate manner and would like to reiterate that the safety of our tenants is of paramount importance to us. As a result of these findings, collectively, as an organisation, we have taken steps to resolve this matter. Throughout this process, we have taken on board the learnings which have resulted in the implementation of new procedures and changes to our processes to ensure this situation does not occur again. As a result, we have:
- Improved the process for handling Housing complaints.
- Introduced a team of dedicated Strategic Complaint Managers, each responsible for an area of housing, who work together on cross-service cases, ensuring a thorough and holistic approach to complaint handling.
The recommendations suggested by the Ombudsman have all been adhered to, including sending a written apology to the tenant around the failings that have occurred and paying compensation for the undue distress caused from this situation.
The work of the Housing Ombudsman continues to support us in driving forward improvements to our services, through highlighting specific actions and areas for development and enabling us to learn on a case-by-case basis to implement changes where necessary to positively impact and enhance our services.