Report critical over how Flintshire council delivers disabled residents home improvements
A highly critical report has been published into the way a council delivers a grant for home improvements to disabled residents.
An internal audit has called for an urgent review of how Flintshire Council oversees Disabled Facilities Grants after it said key control measures were either absent or rarely applied.
It came as one councillor highlighted cases where disabled residents had waited long periods for stair lifts to be installed only to die shortly after.
A Disabled Facilities Grant helps disabled people with the cost of adapting their homes and aims to let them live as independently as possible.
The authority’s chief executive Colin Everett admitted the report had caused him great concern and is now personally heading up a review board.
Speaking at a meeting of the council’s community and enterprise overview and scrutiny committee, Mr Everett said:
“This report has particularly concerned us as we don’t have too many red internal reports, but this is one of them.
“I think it’s important to say to members of the public and press that this is not about the misuse of public money, it’s about us not performing well enough.
“I have been concerned about the ownership and speed in responding to the audit report.”
The report highlighted a number of issues, including a lack of management oversight and that means test data is not always available to support declined applications.
It also said there had been failures to send approval letters containing important information to some applicants, including details of the amount of money they will receive and how much they are required to contribute personally.
Meanwhile, councillors heard that grant application forms are not compliant with General Data Protection Regulations (GDPR) requirements.
Greenfield councillor Rosetta Dolphin said she had encountered several instances where residents had stair lifts installed only to lose their lives shortly after.
“We give out grants and quite rightly so to try and help people in their homes.
In my ward though we’ve had some who have had lifts installed up to their bedroom for £10,000 and after a few months they are no longer required as they’ve sadly passed away.
That then goes as a charge against the property and is that really a benefit to their family? There are times when we need to consider if it’s really the right thing to do.”
Niall Waller, enterprise and regeneration manager at Flintshire Council, said the authority always considers the best option for each person before awarding money.
“There are discussions about what the options for that individual are and a lot of our clients are very ill so there is that risk of them dying soon after receiving a grant, but the most important thing is ensuring they have that quality of life.”
The delivery of grants is carried out by the council’s regeneration team following a referral from an occupational therapist.
The amount given depends on the cost of the work and, where applicable, the resident’s financial circumstances.
Depending on the outcome of a means test, the sum offered ranges from zero to 100 per cent of the cost, up to a maximum of £36,000.
Bernie Attridge , deputy leader of the council and cabinet member for housing, admitted his concern at the audit report.
“Disabled Facilities Grants have been an issue year on year with this council and I believe it’s time to sort it out.
As cabinet member I take full responsibility for that and am assured by what Colin said.
This report is very concerning, but to be clear this is about private facilities grants.
I believe that both private and public Disabled Facilities Grants should be done together.”
In response to the findings of the audit, the service has developed an action plan to improve processes and the review board will meet monthly to check progress.
By Liam Randall – BBC Local Democracy Reporter.
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