The importance of easy access baths is something those with mobility issues will appreciate, with those who are equipped with them being very happy to still be able to bathe, shower and use the other facilities without difficulty, maintaining a level of dignity and independence that would be lost If they were unable to access them.
Some are fortunate enough to have such facilities when they move into a home, while others who own their own properties can have them fitted. This can prompt some to take them for granted. However, the plight of those who do not get such access can act as a sobering reminder of why these facilities are both very important, but also something everyone should be able to have.
Just such an instance afflicted a disabled woman in Slough, who was deprived of the necessary means to access such facilities. The woman, who has not been named, was now been compensated following the case, heard by the Local Government and Social Care Ombudsman, in which she was unable to reach her bedroom and bathroom upstairs because the council had failed to fit a stairlift.
She had applied for a disabled facilities grant in May 2021 and under statutory guidance Slough Borough Council had to get this fitted within six months. Instead, thanks to a backlog in home adaptations, it took more than a year.
As a result, she was forced to stay downstairs, eating, sleeping and washing in one room for 12 months before the lift was finally fitted.
The Local Government and Social Care Ombudsman Michael King ordered the council to pay the complainant £3,300 in compensation in respect of her distress caused by the delay and a further £250 for her time and trouble in pursuing the matter.
Mr King said: “Disabled Facilities Grants are there to provide adaptations so people can live in their own homes with dignity.”
Noting how the affected resident had been forced to carry out bathing and toilet functions in a room that opens directly onto the street, he added that she had “told me she ‘dreams of having a hot bath in privacy before bed and being able to use the toilet like a human being’”.
While the issue in this case was a problem in getting up the stairs, in some other cases people can be housed in homes where they can get to the same floor but not manage to enter or easily use the bathroom, because it has not been designed or made accessible in a way that works for them.
These kinds of issue involving councils are not unusual. Essex Live has reported how Brentwood Council has come under fire from the sister of a 58-year-old disabled woman who moved into a flat in 2017.
Following an incident where a ceiling tile fell to the floor and asbestos was discovered in the property, she was denied access to her shower during repairs and was forced to use a communal one for 14 months, according to her sister. She suffered several falls during these longer treks to the shower and one led to a spinal fracture, it has been claimed.
Faced with accusations of neglecting the woman’s needs, Brentwood Council claimed it had done all it could to support her.