Harrow Council has been forced to apologise and pay £750 to a mum after her disabled child was left with no downstairs toilet for over a year.

The Local Government Ombudsman (LGO) investigated after the child’s mum, referred to in their report as Mrs X, complained about Harrow Council’s handling of a grant to pay for facilities and adaptations to enable them to continue to live at home.

These must be awarded if the person meets the necessary criteria. But despite initially approving the works, the council later concluded that the additional toilet was ‘no longer required’, which the mum claims has had a ‘significant impact’ on her child.

Mrs X told investigators that her child, referred to as Child Y, was left without a downstairs toilet facility for more than a year after the council delayed the process.

The mum complained that attempts to get further information "have been ignored" by the council and the lack of facilities "continues to have a significant impact" on her child.

Child Y has a range of conditions, including autism spectrum disorder, dyspraxia, chromosome disorder, and sensory processing disorder.

This means the child has severe difficulties with learning, speech, language, and social communication, as well as difficulties with motor coordination, gastro-intestinal problems, food allergies, and sleeping. These conditions can result in the child displaying ‘challenging behaviours’.

In April 2020, Harrow Council assessed the family home to determine whether the child would benefit from any adaptations to make living there more comfortable. Following a visit in May 2021, an occupational therapist concluded that Child Y needed access to a level access shower on the first floor, window restrictors to prevent escape, and ground floor toilet facilities. 

The council initially approved Mrs X’s grant application but, despite completing the other works, delayed installing the downstairs toilet as it would need ‘major works’ to the home. The council subsequently U-turned on the decision to install the toilet after a later visit by the occupational therapist concluded that the child could use the bathroom on the first floor "without any obvious difficulty".

Mrx X complained to the ombudsman that she was not given any information about how the decision was reached. A council is able to withdraw a request for grant funding but it must be able to demonstrate that the decision has been based on all relevant information, including the need to take the mum’s views into account.

Investigators found that there was ‘no real agreement reached’ between Mrs X and the council, but the mum had asked for the original agreed changes to be made.

The ombudsman concluded that they were ‘not satisfied’ that the council had used all available information to make a decision and the delay progressing Child Y’s case had caused ‘significant injustice’. 

Their report states: “I am not persuaded the council has undertaken any meaningful assessment about whether Child Y’s needs have changed to the extent that they no longer require ground floor toilet facilities at home.”

It adds: “Mrs X has been caused unnecessary frustration, time and trouble in seeking meaningful responses from the Council without success since July 2022. […] It is entirely possible the outcome of the Council’s consideration might be to withdraw the funding originally offered, but that decision should be made in the right way and informed by an up-to-date assessment.”

The council has agreed to apologise to Mrs X and pay her £750 for the ‘frustration, distress, and uncertainty’ caused, as well as complete a new assessment of the child’s needs, specifically in relation to the downstairs toilet. 

A spokesperson for Harrow Council said, “We acknowledge the failings identified in this report and are sorry for the impact they have had on the family. We’re grateful for the Ombudsman’s ruling and will comply in full with their decision.”