A Lancashire grandmother who was forced to sleep on a mattress in the living room for a decade after fostering her grandchildren has been handed a £24,000 pay out by the council.
The woman, who has not been identified, raised a complaint with the Local Government and Social Care Ombudsman who investigated and found Lancashire County Council had failed to offer her the support she was entitled to.
The mother-of-three was promised in 2005 that her small three-bedroomed terrace house would be extended as part of a care order. However, she was left waiting for more than ten years for the council to arrange the work.
The woman and her daughter slept on mattresses in the living room, and the ombudsman found the entire family were left to live in “significantly overcrowded conditions”.
Although the house had been purchased in agreement with the council and plans were drawn in 2007 for the extension – which would have included an extra bedroom, bathroom, larger kitchen and dining area and a utility room – the project was stalled repeatedly.
A budget for the extension wasn’t agreed until 2011, however the work was delayed so significantly that costs continued to escalate until 2016 when the proposed total had increased by £50,000.
At that point, the grandmother was told that the extension wouldn’t be built at all.
Michael King, local government and social care ombudsman, said: “Lancashire County Council agreed to extend the woman’s property as part of a care order, which was made to promote the welfare of her two vulnerable grandchildren. The council failing to comply with the order is extremely serious, and it could have put the children’s placement at risk.
“Throughout the period five children have grown up and become young adults – because of the overcrowding, the whole family has struggled with a lack of privacy and emotional development. The extension would have significantly improved their living conditions had it been built as agreed.
“While the remedy we have recommended cannot make up for the long-term distress of living in such overcrowded conditions, I hope it can go some way to providing for a stable future for the family.”
The council has since agreed to formally apologise to the woman, paying her a total of £24,000 for the “avoidable stress” both her and her family were put through.
Another sum of £500 will be paid out for the “distress and uncertainty” she was put through due to a failure by the council to reach a decision on whether they would fund a people carrier, as well as reimbursement for two years worth of storage costs.
A Lancashire County Council spokesperson said: “We have fully apologised to the person involved, and we are very sorry for the distress our failings have caused.
“The Local Government and Social Care Ombudsman has identified a number of actions and we’ve drawn up a plan to address all the shortcomings that were outlined in the report.”