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My council are breaking the law and ignoring my complaints

NystagmiteNystagmite Posts: 609Member Pioneering
This has been going on since February 2015 and there's no sign of them budging on the issue at all.

Short version:
- Registered partially sighted with them since June 2007
- Moved out of parents house in February 2015, which now makes me liable for council tax
- I asked the council for all letters to be in large print
- They have never done this once
- I put in a complaint and told it costs them money and there isn't enough demand for this service, therefore, they won't do it
- Got RNIB involved who sent me a pack which has a template letter, which was ignored completely
- I've been told each time it will happen. It hasn't
- They've managed to send a letter with my SS310 registration card in large print; but no letters about council tax / housing benefit 

I've just written to my MP. What are my other options now please? Going to contact RNIB again and explain I'm not getting anywhere. I've gone into the council office each time (which is completely impractical now) and begged for my letters in large print. I've been told it will happen. It hasn't. But everyone else can do it if I just ask. (but I have received apologies - because a few have sent letters the previous day, therefore, when they arrive, they won't be in the format I want)

Replies

  • AlexW_ScopeAlexW_Scope Posts: 204Scope Team Scope community team
    You are right - all health and adult social care providers in England must now provide medical information in a format that blind and partially sighted people can access. For other people in the same position, go to the RNIB website for the template letter. Let us know how you get on with your MP.
  • Andy_AssistiveAndy_Assistive Posts: 43Scope advisor Courageous
    Might be worth a read from the Equality and Human Rights Commission web site 
    https://www.equalityhumanrights.com/en/multipage-guide/written-information

  • GeoarkGeoark Posts: 1,139Community champion Pioneering
    @Nystagmite have you made a formal complaint to the council about this?

    I ask because if you have followed through with the councils complaint procedure and still not getting anywhere you can complain through the council ombudsman.

    http://www.lgo.org.uk/make-a-complaint


    As an individual I stood alone.
    As a member of a group I did things.
    As part of a community I helped to create change!

  • NystagmiteNystagmite Posts: 609Member Pioneering
    Yes. Complained in October. Told it costs too much money and there isn't enough demand. Not received an excuse for the current complaint.
  • GeoarkGeoark Posts: 1,139Community champion Pioneering
    I would take your complaint to the Local Government Ombudsman as linked above.

    The council is refusing to make a reasonable accommodation for your needs and providing important information in a format you cannot access. It is not difficult to provide a letter in large print format, the only real additional cost would be to use A3 rather than A4 paper. Twice a year we send out several thousand letters to leaseholders for their service charges and while most are done by external printers we pull out a small number where large print is required and do them in the office.

    As an individual I stood alone.
    As a member of a group I did things.
    As part of a community I helped to create change!

  • NystagmiteNystagmite Posts: 609Member Pioneering
    They claimed with my previous complaint, the software doesn't allow them to just do that. They have to contact the providers and ask them to do that. But it costs too much, apparently. According to the Equalities Act, you can only use that as a reason, if it would mean you'd lose a lot of money. I don't see how that's the case here. And they've managed it a few times. So why can't they do it again?

    A3 is a pain for me and it doesn't really enlarge it. It has to be large print on A4. They know that and have supposedly made a note of it every time I go in and have a whinge at them.

    Anyone would think I'm asking the impossible.
  • NystagmiteNystagmite Posts: 609Member Pioneering
    They've finally responded and said it will happen. Will believe it when I see it again.

    They probably got fed up of me walking into their office every few months and whinging at them.
  • Sam_ScopeSam_Scope Posts: 7,647Administrator Scope community team
    Oh I hope it all happens for you 
    Scope
    Senior online community officer
  • mikehughescqmikehughescq Posts: 3,366Member - under moderation Disability Gamechanger
    Ombudsman process is long; painful and not especially competent. 

    Better option is a solicitor interested in EA 10 issues (there are many) and look at a letter before action followed by a judicial review if necessary. 
  • NystagmiteNystagmite Posts: 609Member Pioneering
    I received a letter from my MP. The council seemed to blame me and were spouting some rubbish about how I could have just used their online portal thing. That wouldn't have stopped the unreadable letters, would it?

    Anyway, it does appear to have been sorted, finally. But it's utterly ridiculous that I had to get my MP involved for them to do what the law says they had to.
  • mikehughescqmikehughescq Posts: 3,366Member - under moderation Disability Gamechanger

    One reasonable adjustment alternative to large print is indeed to go online but that would depend on the accessibility of their site to you not in general. So, they would have needed to have that conversation with you before concluding it was a more reasonable version of a reasonable adjustment.

    I would strongly suggest you get an EA 10 friendly solicitor and look at a letter before action.

  • NystagmiteNystagmite Posts: 609Member Pioneering
    You've read the part where it's been sorted, haven't you?
  • mikehughescqmikehughescq Posts: 3,366Member - under moderation Disability Gamechanger
    I have, but it hasn’t. I guarantee it’s a matter of time before the backtrack or mess up and revert to normal type. Not had a case where it hasn’t happened. The only way to sort it permanently is through legal action. 
  • NystagmiteNystagmite Posts: 609Member Pioneering
    They've sent me two letters in the last week (council tax and bus pass) and both are in a format I can't read.

    Am I really asking the impossible?

    I knew this was going to happen.
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  • NystagmiteNystagmite Posts: 609Member Pioneering
    Victoriad said:
    Why don’t you get an advocate to get involved in putting forward your situation to the council......perhaps a different approach could work.

    Live found in my last dealings with a local council, that if things start to rise “temperature wise”,  then the others involved at the other end tend to back off and do very little to help you.

    Its a case if slowly,slowly....catchee  monkey!

    I shouldn't have to do that though.

    I've contacted RNIB again to see what they can do. I'm not holding my breath on things changing though.
  • NystagmiteNystagmite Posts: 609Member Pioneering
    Good grief. So, I sent them a really shitty email on Friday. (because I'm fed up of politely asking them to do what the law states after 3 years) They've just sent me a letter in the format I require.

    I know this isn't the end of it though and I know the next letter won't be in the format I require.
  • NystagmiteNystagmite Posts: 609Member Pioneering
    They sent me two letters in this morning both saying the same thing. One in large print and one in standard size print. Apparently, I've got to request my letters in large print each year? has anyone heard of this? No-one else (DWP, bank, etc) has told me I need to do this.
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  • NystagmiteNystagmite Posts: 609Member Pioneering
    Victoriad said:
    Hello @Nystagmite
    Congratulations on getting the large print......but is it really that much of an effort to request this service on a yearly basis?

    Personally I think you are coming across as being a bit cross over this simple request as large print uses more paper and ink which increases costs to the taxpayer generally 

    I await your brick bats and Im now wearing a tin helmet ;) 

    But the law states they have to do it. It's classed as a reasonable adjustment. 

    Actually, yes it is too much of an effort to have to keep doing this. Especially when it has to be done more than once a year. And I know I'll have to request it more than once.

    I'm sure you'd feel the same if you couldn't read your mail independently?
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  • NystagmiteNystagmite Posts: 609Member Pioneering
    I guess this isn't an issue you can grasp one bit. I'm sure you'd think differently if you were visually impaired.

    There's also a huge difference between not understanding your mail and not being able to read it because someone's far too lazy to put it in the format they're required to do so by law.

    You're right, it will cost them money. It'll cost them pence. Meanwhile, I've got to pay £174 per year for my council tax. So why on earth can't they use some of that money I'm forced to pay them to do things properly? The law states they have to do that.
  • mikehughescqmikehughescq Posts: 3,366Member - under moderation Disability Gamechanger
    edited March 2018
    Much misunderstanding all round methinks. Calling them lazy, when you’ve not grasped the complexity of what you’re asking, is not a winning strategy.

    Firstly, @Nystagmite you are coming off as a bit ranty with everyone. I predicted this would repeat and got a query as to whether I’d read the bit where it was was “sorted”. I will now say for the third time that if you want this sorted rather than just to have a satisfying periodic rant then you will need a good EA 10 solicitor. Plenty will take on such cases pro bono. If you’re in a union they will do it. You can also start your own county court claim for damages but again, if you really want this sorting... you will need a solicitor who deals in EA 10 issues. Any other approach at this stage is just passive aggressive i.e. we know it ain’t work but it gives us the opportunity for a further moan rather than actually sorting it.

    Now, as for the other stuff...”the law” says none of the things you claim it does. There is no such thing as something “classed” as a reasonable adjustment. RAs are entirely individual and, whilst the duty is anticipatory, ultimately they won’t know what works unless you spell it out. You appear to want A4 and presumably a specific font and font size. On paper that looks entirely reasonable, and in line with suggestions of good practice by organisations like RNIB, but you’re also talking about more than CT bills, You’re talking all correspondence. That’s fine but there is almost always no one system within a Council where an RA could be noted for all to take account of. Then each team you deal with will have their own systems. So, if you want ALL correspondence in your version of large print then you’re either going to have to write one letter listing every department you want to be advised, or, write to them all yourself. 

    Then we have CT bills. The production is usually outsourced and mass produced by the thousand. So, they are correct in as much as if they were to go back to the company with the contract it could indeed be stupidly expensive. They don’t 
    “have to” do it if it would be too expensive. EA 10 allows them to say no in that circumstance. They may not even be able to type one up for you separately if the contract with the private contractor says that only they can produce them. You may want to gently ask them if there is in fact anything preventing them getting this manually typed out before you kick off at them once again.

    The requirement to review things once a year may sound bonkers but it has sound logic behind it. First of all RAs should be reviewed on a regular basis - that is a requirement - and one of the reasons for that is not because your Nystagmus etc. might have magically got better. It’s more that other things, like technology, change so rapidly that other solutions may have become available to you. 

    So, part of this is that your Council is simply not built to easily accommodate your needs without some thought being given to it but also that you don’t know the law as well as you think you do and need to give further thought to how you approach this. 

    Just so there’s no doubt what I’m saying here:

    1) You need to sort out who needs to do large print; make sure they know and give them a chance to comply.

    2) You need to explore other RAs like low vision aids and if they work then brilliant. If they do not then you need to explain what you’ve tried and what happened. 

    3) If neither of the above work then you get an EA 10 solicitor and explore a clai, for damages in the county court amongst other options.

    if you do anything less than this then I am happy to predict, once again, that thus will run and run.


  • NystagmiteNystagmite Posts: 609Member Pioneering
    1) You need to sort out who needs to do large print; make sure they know and give them a chance to comply.

    2) You need to explore other RAs like low vision aids and if they work then brilliant. If they do not then you need to explain what you’ve tried and what happened. 

    3) If neither of the above work then you get an EA 10 solicitor and explore a clai, for damages in the county court amongst other options.

    if you do anything less than this then I am happy to predict, once again, that thus will run and run.


    1) The council tax and housing benefit department have been given since February 2015 to sort this out. They occasionally do it. (ie, 3 times in 3 years. They only did it last time after I told them to either do it or I won't be paying my CT bill because I can't read what the letter says) They promised every single time and kept coming up with excuses about the lack of demand. That isn't my problem. The Equalities Act states they have to make reasonable adjustments. That being for me putting everything they send me in large print. Is that really too much to ask? And why can everyone else do it with no trouble at all?

    2) Low vision aids don't work at all. Believe me, I've tried. My local low vision clinic and the hearing and sight centre have both worked with me on and off for the last 11 years or so and tried to come up with solutions for my problems. But they can't. Not helped by the constant tiredness, the hearing difficulties (which means no text to speech software) and my sight slowly going which makes using any low vision aid difficult.
  • mikehughescqmikehughescq Posts: 3,366Member - under moderation Disability Gamechanger
    The law does not simply say that they “have to” make RAs. It says they have to unless one of the 5 exceptions apply and, as I’ve already pointed out, it’s not unreasonable for it to be subject to review. They may have only just realised it can be subject to review thus 3 in 3 followed by none.
  • NystagmiteNystagmite Posts: 609Member Pioneering
    But what are the exceptions? The only ones I'm aware of (health and safety and it being impossible to make an adjustment) don't apply here.

    They're well aware I live alone and I'm not taking my mail to my parents house every time it needs to be sorted.
  • mikehughescqmikehughescq Posts: 3,366Member - under moderation Disability Gamechanger
    There’s no health and safety exemption as such. You could be confusing that with the impact on others.

    Cost - which you’re dismissive of. Let me put that in perspective for you. A fully transcribed set of large print PIP appeal papers costs approx. £1,500 regardless of the size of the papers. 

    The size of the employer. What’s a reasonable expenditure for one may not be for another.

    Reasonableness - what’s reasonable for one person may be unnecessary for another. So, if you haven’t spelt out all the alternatives they could look st abd sgy they won’t work for you then they could assume that reasonable alternatives exist.

    The length of time it might take to put an RA in place. 

    And so on...

    FWIW I’ve gone into battle with DWP for large print appeal papers for me as a rep. and it’s taken 7 months. I’ve been in the same workplace in about 6 different roles over 25 years and I’ve spent over 3 of them battling for RAs. I still work with people who refuse to send me emails in the correct font size and who think I can share documents. I’m currently challenging the lack of accessibility on e-learning I’ve been compelled to do as well as the removal of several RAs as a consequence of an office move. Latter is likely to end in court.

    The answer is not, and never will be, someone else can help you. The purpose of RAs is to specifically prevent the need for that. 

    Are you on the priority register for water etc? That can be hugely influential when it comes to persuading a Council. They have numerous duties around safe-guarding and vulnerability. 


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  • NystagmiteNystagmite Posts: 609Member Pioneering
    Not on the priority register for water. Electricity, yes.

    Not had a problem getting any large print letters from anywhere else. Just the council.

    The only alternative that would work for me is putting everything large print. But according to the complaints I've sent over the years, this has to be done manually and apparently, there's no option for it. It takes 2 minutes to copy and paste it into Microsoft Word. 

    This has been going on for far too long and I'm getting seriously fed up of it. All I want to do is to read my own mail. Is that really too much to ask?
  • mikehughescqmikehughescq Posts: 3,366Member - under moderation Disability Gamechanger
    If you’re using a professional printer, and they will be, then the final print is usually done from a high resolution image file so there’s no possibility of a simple copy and paste. What seems simple to you... really isn’t. You need to wholly rethink your approach as I’ve previously described. 

    The more priority registers you are on then the more large print you get and the stronger your case with those who put up barriers. 
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  • NystagmiteNystagmite Posts: 609Member Pioneering
    IvecwalkI'v into their office and they've printed a copy there for me which does show they can do it.
  • mikehughescqmikehughescq Posts: 3,366Member - under moderation Disability Gamechanger
    ... of a full Council Tax bill? In A4? Just like that? Seems unlikely. 

    Letters maybe...
  • NystagmiteNystagmite Posts: 609Member Pioneering
    edited April 2018
    Yes actually...

    Which tells me they're ************ about their claims about it costing them far too much money.

    Not sure what exactly they expect me to do - magnifying aids don't help one bit and I'd rather not sign up, especially when there are constant reports of websites / users details being compromised. And no, I'm not (as a former bank suggested) going into their office every time I need them to do something.
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