'Dereliction of duty': Council delays leave disabled child without hoist

Zack, 16, has to be lifted by his father because there is no hoist

Zack, 16, has to be lifted by his father because there is no hoist - Credit: Polly Hancock

A disabled Haringey child has been left without a hoist at home for six years due to “shocking” delays by Haringey Council.  

The Local Government and Social Care Ombudsman upheld a complaint against the town hall on December 9 for causing the child and his family “significant frustration, distress, inconvenience and uncertainty”.  

Zack Leveson, 16, is quadriplegic and non-verbal. He has cerebral palsy and epilepsy, and requires full-time support at home.  

Zack was assessed in 2015, then aged nine, for adaptations to his home so that he and his parents could manage his care. Today, six years on, the full set of works still haven’t been completed.

The last time the family from Seven Sisters heard from the local authority was in March this year. At the time they were informed the case officer was going on annual leave, and would be in touch on their return. 

Haringey Council, which was recently criticised by Ofsted for a series of failures in its services for special educational needs and disabilities (SEND), apologised for its handling of the case.

Zack is carried by his parents including in and out of the bath

Zack is carried by his parents including in and out of the bath - Credit: Polly Hancock

Zack’s father Brian, 53, who blogs about his family's struggles with local SEND services, called the council’s actions “shocking but utterly unsurprising”.  

“It's a dereliction of their duty,” he said. “As his parents we're doing everything we can to give him the best possible life and the authority which is meant to be supporting us are letting Zack and us down.

“It's emotionally draining looking after our children. It's very tiring, but physically as well. He's getting bigger, we're not getting younger.” 

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Some adaptations were completed by the council in 2019 but due to “structural issues” others were not – and so Zack remains without a hoist.  

As a result, his parents have been left to lift their son which has damaged their physical health. It has also worsened Zack’s condition including curvature of his spine and misalignment of his hips, Brian said. 

“We're now lifting a child who is something like 50 kilos. It isn't safe for him and it's not safe for us. It's painful, it's difficult," the father-of-two said.

“Zack is not being lifted with the proper, safe equipment, so that is having an ongoing detrimental effect to his wellbeing and his future health.”

"It puts stresses and strains on all of us"

"It puts stresses and strains on all of us" - Credit: Polly Hancock

Michael King, Local Government and Social Care Ombudsman, said the case highlights the importance of carrying out adaptations to people’s homes in a “timely fashion, particularly where growing children are concerned”. 

“For much of the time the council did not keep in contact with the family to let them know about progress – so they were left not knowing what was going to happen and when,” he said.  

“At the very least, the council should have put in place interim solutions while the major work was being sorted out. 

“This has led to a breakdown in communication and trust between the family and the council, particularly when new recommendations contradicted previous assessments.”

Zack's family say their son has been disadvantaged by the lack of support

Zack's family say their son has been disadvantaged by the lack of support - Credit: Polly Hancock

Cllr Lucia das Neves, Haringey’s cabinet member for health, said: “Meeting our residents needs is hugely important to me and when we get things wrong, I believe we should say so, and take action to make things right.  

“I offer my sincere apologies to the family over the significant delays to the adaptations needed. 

“We have been actively working with the Local Government Ombudsman to make amends for the distress and inconvenience caused to the family and improve the overall service and its delivery to help make sure similar issues don’t occur again. 

“We have carried out a thorough recommendation review to identify where we can improve the service for residents and their families. 

“We have taken steps to improve the process, and this includes issuing a report that highlights how we could do things differently to ensure that our residents in Haringey are receiving the best possible service.” 

The Local Government and Social Care Ombudsman, which investigates complaints against local authorities, said the council should pay £2,000 for delays and contact Zack's family about the outstanding works.  

Haringey Council said it is taking up the ombudsman’s recommendations.