Disabled man 'insulted' by suggestion he use bedpan instead of move home, as Wakefield Council told to 'properly monitor' WDH
The man, a Wakefield District Housing (WDH) tenant, was denied medical priority to move house by the organisation, despite his claim that his current home had become unsuitable for his needs.
Among the problems he had was accessing his bathroom via his bedroom from a “platform step”.
But WDH, which is Wakefield's largest social housing supplier, concluded that the tenant’s need to move was not “urgent”, after an assessor suggested he use a bedpan to reduce his risk of falling in the night.
A report by the Local Government Ombudsman, which assessed the case after the man complained, said the assessor, “noted (he) had some difficulty with a platform step on the stairs between his bedroom and the bathroom.
“The record says they discussed ways to reduce the risk of trips and falls, including installing a stair gate, switching bedrooms so that (his) room was on the same side of the stairs as the bathroom, and using a commode.”
The report told how the man in question said, “he could not install a stair gate because the newly installed additional banister rail now prevented this and it was insulting to suggest he used a bedpan.”
However, the Ombudsman cleared WDH of wrongdoing in how it made its decision.
In its conclusion, it said: “The records show (WDH) applied the correct test when deciding if (the tenant) met the criteria for medical priority.
However, the Ombudsman was critical of WDH for “failing to properly respond to the complaint” and of Wakefield Council, for “failing to properly monitor” WDH’s activities.
The local authority transferred all of its council houses to WDH when it was set up in 2005, with WDH responsible for managing the homes.
The Ombudsman said however, that WDH had been referring complaints to the wrong place, a fault it suggested the council should have picked up on.
In its verdict, it said it was, "concerned the council, in limiting its role in reviewing decisions and considering complaints to the extent it does, is failing to properly monitor WDH’s activities on its behalf."
It added however, that the council was "acting in good faith".
It also ordered the council to pay the tenant £150 worth of compensation and apologise to him for "WDH's failure to respond properly to his complaint about the assessment of his ability to use the bathroom safely, and for signposting him the wrong Ombudsman scheme."
It also told the local authority to "meet with WDH to clarify" which body to refer specific complaints to and to "review its approach to ensure it has proper oversight of WDH's activities".
Responding to the report's findings, Mick Walsh, WDH's executive director of housing said: “This determination against the council is a learning opportunity for us all that enables us to continue to deliver valuable services of the highest standard to our customers."
Antony Sadler, Wakefield Council’s service director for communities, said: “Wakefield Council takes its responsibilities for caring for vulnerable people in our district very seriously, and we fully accept the Ombudsman’s findings.
"We have taken valuable learning from this and remain committed to providing high quality care to all who need our support."
Local Democracy Reporting Service