Lancashire

Lancashire grandmother 'had to sleep on mattress in lounge' for 10 years

Mattress on floor (generic) Image copyright Getty Images
Image caption The grandmother said she was forced to sleep on the mattress in her lounge

A woman slept on a mattress in her living room for more than 10 years because her council house was too small for her and five children.

Lancashire County Council told her the three-bedroom terraced house would be extended after she fostered her two grandchildren, both under two, in 2004.

It took the authority until 2011 to agree a budget and escalating costs meant the plan was eventually scrapped.

The Local Government Ombudsman ordered the council to pay her compensation.

The council apologised and said it would pay her £24,000 to reflect the "avoidable distress" she and her family suffered.

'Lack of privacy'

The Ombudsman found both the woman and her daughter had to sleep on mattresses and the whole family lived in "significantly overcrowded" conditions.

When the two grandchildren were formally fostered by the woman in March 2004, her children living in the property were all under the age of 10.

A care order for the two grandchildren in 2005 required the council to complete an extension.

Plans were approved in 2007 to add an extra bedroom and shower room, and to extend the kitchen, dining area and utility room.

But the council took four years to agree a budget for the work.

Image copyright Getty Images
Image caption Lancashire County Council said it was paying the woman £24,000 in recognition of the "avoidable stress" she suffered

By 2016 the proposed costs had increased by £50,000 and the council told her the extension would no longer be built.

She complained to the Ombudsman, whose investigation found the council delayed getting an agreement for the extension, and reneged on its agreement to build it once the costs had escalated.

The investigation also found the council delayed deciding whether to provide the family with a people-carrier type vehicle in response to the court order. It eventually paid for a vehicle in 2016.

Ombudsman Michael King 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."