Mrs D, Mrs F and Miss P (“the complainants”) all complained that Cardiff Council’s “Assisted Lift” waste collection service had failed to meet their needs (or in Miss P’s case, her mother’s needs) as vulnerable residents on a consistent basis. They also complained that the Council had failed to respond adequately to their reports and complaints about problems with the Assisted Lift service.

The Council had committed to provide the Assisted Lift service at the properties in question because the residents were disabled and could not present waste for collection themselves. However, the Ombudsman found that the Council had failed to provide a reliable service to the residents. They had all experienced repeated missed waste collections over extended periods of time and Mrs D had also experienced problems with her bins being left in unsafe positions. The Ombudsman found that these were serious service failures which amounted to a clear injustice, because some of the Council’s most vulnerable residents were denied reliable access to an essential service that should be available to all. As well as living with the stress of not knowing whether their waste would be collected, the residents often had to put up with a build-up of waste at their properties which had a significant negative impact on the enjoyment of their homes and potentially posed a risk to their health and safety. The Ombudsman considered that it was a serious indignity that the residents, 2 of whom were in their 90s, should have had to suffer such inconvenience for such a prolonged period of time.

The Ombudsman also upheld the complaint about the Council’s response to the reports and complaints it received about the Assisted Lift service. He found that, despite receiving repeated formal complaints and 100s of calls from the complainants, the Council failed to properly acknowledge or act on their concerns. The Council frequently failed to rectify missed collections reported by the complainants within expected timeframes and, when the complainants asked to speak to a supervisor, they often had to wait for months for a call-back or never received one. The Ombudsman found that this caused them avoidable distress over a long time, which amounted to a considerable injustice.

The Ombudsman found evidence of systemic problems with the Assisted Lift service, primarily caused by a failure to effectively communicate information about registered properties to crew members on the front line. He was particularly concerned that these problems had not been appropriately addressed by the Council and that they might be affecting a number of other vulnerable residents.

The Ombudsman recommended that the Council should take the following actions in order to address the injustices experienced by the complainants and to rapidly improve the Assisted Lift service for the benefit of all residents who use it:

  • Apologise to the complainants (including 2 additional complainants identified by the Ombudsman), pay each of them £250 in respect of time and trouble associated with pursuing their complaints and reimburse them for the cost of telephone calls to the Council.
  • Arrange for a designated waste collections supervisor to contact the complainants to resolve any ongoing concerns.
  • Ensure that it handles similar complaints it receives about the Assisted Lift service consistently with the complaints I have investigated, providing redress where appropriate in keeping with the above recommendations.
  • Carry out a comprehensive review of the Assisted Lift service.
  • Produce an action plan for improvements and share details of proposed actions with all service users.
  • Carry out a review to ensure that all reports and complaints about the Assisted Lift service are handled effectively and that, in general, repeated complaints from vulnerable residents are appropriately escalated.

The Ombudsman was pleased that the Council accepted his report and recommendations.