A mother-of-three, who also cared for her two foster grandchildren, will receive more than £24,000 in compensation after sleeping on a mattress in her living room for 10 years because of council failures.
The woman, only identified as Ms B, was promised an extension to her small three-bedroom house – of which one is a box room – by Lancashire County Council as part of a Care Order granted in 2005.
She had bought her house as agreed with the council and in 2007 she was told she would be getting an extra bedroom and shower room, a bigger kitchen and dining area, along with a utility room.
But while she waited for that to be built, both she and her daughter were forced to sleep on makeshift beds in their lounge, with the whole family living in cramped conditions.
It took the council four years to agree a budget for the work, and in 2011, it was decided that £109,000 would be enough.
But after several delays, the estimated costs increased significantly in 2016, to £160,000 – so she was subsequently told the extension would no longer be built.
In addition, as part of court proceedings in 2005, the council said it would submit a request from Ms B for a people carrier – but did not provide funds for a car until late 2016 – despite knowing that during some of this time, she had no access to a vehicle.
The woman complained to the local ombudsman and also explained to the public advocate that because her foster allowance was paid into the wrong account, she incurred bank charges and missed direct debit payments.
She also claimed the council refused to reimburse her for storage costs after she attempted to make more room in the property – something it has now agreed to do, along with meeting the costs of the bank charges.
Ms B has lived in her home since the 1990s, while her two sons and daughter – who are now in their late teens and early twenties – have been there since they were born.
Her two grandsons, both under the age of two at the time, came to stay with her in 2003 and 2004 – meaning she was responsible for five children under the age of 10.
She says her family has suffered “significant distress” after the council’s failure to meet its promises – and the ombudsman agreed.
After an investigation, it concluded the council was at fault on a number of occasions – and that Ms B and her family have been living in “unsuitable overcrowded accommodation because of fault by the council from January 2009 to January 2019”.
It found the local authority had delayed getting an agreement for the extension, and reneged on its promise to build it once the costs had escalated.
It also said the council delayed on deciding whether to provide the family with a people-carrier type vehicle in response to the court order.
The ombudsman also criticised the authority for not agreeing to pay for storage for some of the family’s belongings over a three-year period.
Michael King, the 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.”
Lancashire County Council 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.”