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Hidden disabilities must not lead to discriminatory treatment, says Local Government and Social Care Ombudsman Main Image

Hidden disabilities must not lead to discriminatory treatment, says Local Government and Social Care Ombudsman

Mon 22 Jul 2019

Headway has welcomed an announcement by the Local Government and Social Care Ombudsman on hidden disabilities.

The Ombudsman looks into complaints about local authorities, to improve public services, sharing learning from cases to drive up standards.

The Ombudsman is now urging councils to check their procedures to avoid disadvantaging people with ‘hidden disabilities’ following their publication of three separate investigation reports into London councils .

The cases highlighted by the Ombudsman all show councils not doing enough to enable someone to use their services. They include not making reasonable adjustments to help a woman with autism to repay overpaid housing benefit, and two councils not helping a man with severe dyslexia to deal with parking tickets and permits.

In a statement, Local Government and Social Care Ombudsman, Michael King, said: “The Equality Act 2010 requires councils to anticipate the needs of people who may need to access their services. This means when councils are alerted to the fact someone might need to be treated in a different way, they should ask that person what adjustments are needed, and consider whether these are reasonable.

“It can be difficult for people to navigate complex council procedures, yet in all three cases, the councils were made aware that these people needed additional help, but none was given.

“We recognise the significant challenges faced by public service providers in adapting their processes to the needs of people who may require adjustments, particularly where the services have been automated. But this is a duty councils must meet and needs they must anticipate.

Headway’s Public Affairs Manager, Dr Clare Mills, said: “These cases are clear examples of organisations having procedures which don’t take hidden disability into account.

“Acquired brain injury can often leave people with lifelong effects which are not visible, but which can make life extremely challenging. Headway backs the Ombudsman’s call to all local authorities to check their procedures.

“We have seen greater understanding of hidden disabilities in frontline services, such as the extension of Blue Badges to cover hidden disabilities, but organisations must ensure that other procedures are non-discriminatory.”

Read more about the Local Government and Social Care Ombudsman’s reports.

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