A faulty door system that left emergency services unable to reach a disabled resident has earned Stevenage Council a verdict of severe maladministration from the Housing Ombudsman.
The council failed to repair or replaced the resident’s door entry system, despite knowing it was the only way for the emergency services to attend to him, the ombudsman said. Due to the fault, the fire brigade had to accompany the ambulance on numerous occasions due to the inability to access the flat.
As a result of the situation, 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”.
According to the ombudsman, Stevenage Council 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, the ombudsman added, with no referrals from officers as part of its Aids & Adaptations policy.
Richard Blakeway, the 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 & 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.”
The ombudsman has 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 statement to the ombudsman, Stevenage Council said: “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.”
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