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Ombudsman issues report on failures by council to meet Equality Act 2010 duties and make ‘reasonable adjustments’

The Local Government and Social Care Ombudsman has issued a report into cases where local authorities have breached their duties under the Equality Act 2010.

The 2010 Act requires local services to make sure people with disabilities can access their service as easily as people without disabilities, often requiring councils making ‘reasonable adjustments’ to enable them to do so.

Cases discussed in the Ombudsman’s report include:

  • a council failing to make adjustments to the way social workers communicated with a woman with mental health difficulties;
  • a man with dyslexia not being allowed the opportunity to challenge a parking fine over the telephone;
  • a woman not being provided with an advocate when she told officers she could not attend a meeting because of problems with her medication, and
  • a school only accepting written admission appeals for a time.

The Ombudsman’s report identifies a number of positive steps councils can make to improve services, including reviewing staff training needs around the Equality Act 2010, incorporating Equality Act duties in contracts when commissioning services from external suppliers, and retaining alternative contact methods for people with alternative needs when moving services online.

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Local councillors and members of scrutiny committees are also provided with a list of questions they can ask their authorities to consider to analyse whether services in their wards meet their legal obligations.

Michael King, Local Government and Social Care Ombudsman, said: “We know dealing with public services can often be complex, so it is vital local service providers put the needs of people with disabilities at the heart of any decisions about how services are designed and delivered. It is not enough for them to leave this as an add-on or an afterthought – and enabling people with different needs to access their services shouldn’t be seen as an inconvenience.

“If people feel they have not had their reasonable adjustments met, they need to tell their local authority, and then come to us if they do not put things right. The stories in this report show that just one complaint to us has the power to make a huge difference. If we find a council has made a mistake, we can recommend changes that can impact everyone in their area and share that learning for other councils and providers to act on.

“I would urge local authorities to read my report and consider whether any of the services they provide are putting people with disabilities at a disadvantage.”

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