Ombudsman orders Waltham Forest Council to compensate family of disabled boy left without safe bathroom for years

Waltham Forest Council has been told to pay a family £1,000 in compensation after their disabled son was left without a safe bathroom for years.

The boy in question, not named for privacy reasons, is severely disabled and “displays challenging behaviour” like destroying fixtures and eating items like sealant.

The Waltham Forest family received a disabled facilities grant (DFG) to fund work to make the bathroom in their home safe for him to use, such as by installing tamper-proof fittings.

However, faults by the council’s standard provider for such work, Metropolitan Thames Valley, mean the family have been left “in limbo” since December 2017, without a safe bathroom.

In January this year, the local government ombudsman ruled that the council, having hired Metropolitan, “remains responsible” for the faults they committed and must pay up.

The council is asked to arrange for a new surveyor, not from either Metropolitan or the council, to assess what work is needed on the bathroom and cover the costs.

The ombudsman heard from the boy’s mother that Metropolitan did not even start work on the bathroom after the request in December 2017 until June 2019.

The builders who showed up, the mother states, did not appear to have been properly informed of her son’s needs and “repeatedly ignored information” offered by the family.

The ombudsman wrote: “As a result of these failings, (she) says the work done was not fit for purpose and many of the fittings were not sufficiently tamper proof. 

“The work was not completed because the parties were not able to resolve the difficulties that arose, leaving the family with a bathroom that could not be used. 

“(She) said this caused immense stress and frustration, and the family have been living in limbo since December 2017.”

The ombudsman ruled that the builders hired by Metropolitan should have had a more detailed specification of what work was needed and that Metropolitan had failed to explain what was delaying work.

They wrote: “On balance, I find Metropolitan did not consult the family properly and did not listen to what they said about key aspects of the work and this was further fault.

“I have seen no evidence to show Metropolitan communicated with (the boy’s mother) to explain what action it was taking or the reasons for any delays.”

The ombudsman has also asked the council to review its work with Metropolitan in order to ensure “proper records are kept”, that “a detailed specification of works is prepared” for future DFGs and that the company “consults appropriately with families”.

A Waltham Forest Council spokesperson said the council recognised the service was “unacceptable” and accepted the ombudsman’s findings.

The council has paid the compensation agreed and will also pay for the bathroom to be finished properly by another company.

The spokesperson added: “One of Waltham Forest Council’s priorities is that residents lead safe and healthy lives, so the council is reviewing its disabled facilities grant to ensure that the issues the family faced are addressed and this doesn’t happen again.”

Metropolitan was contacted for comment but had not responded at the time of writing.


Victoria Munro

Local Democracy Reporter