A VULNERABLE elderly woman with learning difficulties has received £2,000 from City of York Council after she was misled over home improvements – including being sold insulation she did not need.
The woman, who has not been named, was victim to a string of problems after taking out a home appreciation loan – which is given to vulnerable homeowners to bring their homes up to decent standards – to fix the roof of her York home at an initial amount of £10,500.
As a result of the problems the woman, who is over 60, has suffered distress and anxiety and will no longer open the door to people she does not know, the Local Government Ombudsman has said.
The report has found the council and an agency acting on its behalf made a string of mistakes including telling the woman she was required to have new insulation, when she already had adequate insulation, at an additional cost of £1,000.
Changing the type of insulation material without telling her and then not fitting it as it was not needed, and failing to keep records of changes to tiles being used and the resulting cost changes.
Mistakes were also made when the woman, who struggles to understand paperwork due to her learning difficulty, was apparently pressured into signing off the work without a relative present. An inspection was not carried out which would have flagged up problems with the insulation and the complaint was not dealt with in a timely manner.
In her report, Dr Jane Martin said: “I consider the council delayed in responding to the complaint, and did not obtain all the information it could have, particularly from the agency officers.
“The complainant is a vulnerable person who has been caused a significant degree of distress and anxiety by these events. She feels she has paid more for roof works than was necessary and she did not get the improved insulation she had been promised.
"Given the lack of record she is uncertain as to whether the bill was reduced by a sufficient amount or whether she has been overcharged. She no longer trusts anyone to carry out work in her house and will not answer the door to anyone she does not know.”
Dr Martin found that the actions to be “maladministration causing injustice”.
As well as paying the woman £2,000, council officers are now providing technical support to people applying for home appreciation loans and it is reviewing its procedures to make sure the service is improved so a similar situation does not happen in the future, the report notes.
Steve Waddington, City of York Council’s assistant director of housing and community safety, said: “The council had no direct involvement in the case until the sign-off of works to authorise the loan payment, apart from agreeing to the funding through approval of the loan.
“As a responsible authority we accept the overall findings of the Ombudsman in relation to the specification and management of the works by the third party. However there are a number of the finer details of some of the Ombudsman’s findings which we have always disputed.”