Ombudsman reiterates that equal access for all should be at heart of services

On 19 May 2022, the Local Government and Social Care Ombudsman released its report titled, ‘Focus Report – Equal Access – May 2022’ (“The Report”). In The Report, the Ombudsman has shared the results of its investigations to help councils and local services meet their legal duties to ensure that everyone has an equal opportunity to access their services as required under the Equality Act 2010. The aim of The Report is to set out steps for local authorities across England to take to ensure that disabled people are at the heart of how services operate.

Significance of the Equality Act 2010

The Equality Act 2010 requires local services to ensure that people with disabilities can still access services just as easily as people without disabilities. Council’s therefore are required to make ‘reasonable adjustments’ to enable this. A reasonable adjustment is a measure which empowers a person to access a service. An example of a reasonable adjustment is providing information in large print for those with visual impairments, or providing translation services for people who are deaf.

The Report and indeed the majority of the Ombudsman’s investigations regarding the Equality Act relate to commonly encountered issues that councils and local services have experienced in relation to making reasonable adjustments. The Report highlights a variety of cases where local services have got it wrong, with the aim to offer opportunities for others to learn from those mistakes. Some of the examples set out in The Report where councils have failed to make adequate adjustments are as follows:

  • Social workers failed to make adjustments for a woman with mental health difficulties.
  • Not allowing a dyslexic male the opportunity to challenge a parking fine over a telephone instead of written correspondence.
  • Not providing an advocate on behalf of a woman when she was not able to be present at a meeting due to her medication.

What has been said

Michael King on behalf of the 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. 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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