Cerebral palsy negligence news

 

How to apply for a Disabled Facilities Grant (DFG)

As I mentioned in the first of this series – What is a Disabled Facilities Grant (DFG)? – this piece looks at how to apply for a grant.

The first step in making an application for a Disabled Facilities Grant (DFG) is to contact the local council. Some councils have designated people who deal with DFG applications. Others will advise you to contact the local Social Services department.

The council’s approach to DFG’s

Whatever the council’s approach, the matter is always referred for a Local Authority Occupational Therapist (OT) to undertake an assessment. Most councils will insist that the assessment can only be carried out by their own OT. They will usually not accept an assessment from any other OT, even if you have one.

The assessment process for DFG’s

Most often there is a delay in the DFG application whilst waiting for the OT assessment to be conducted. Most Local Authority OTs have waiting lists. This is the most frustrating part of the application process. Waiting lists can vary greatly. Some may only be a few weeks; others can be up to two years.

The OT will assess the needs of the disabled person and the proposed property to be adapted.  If the DFG works only form part of a larger adaptation project, the OT may well ask for a copy of the plans prepared by the architect.

Once the assessment has been carried out, the OT will prepare a report for the council. If the assessment is favourable, you are usually then asked to complete the formal DFG application booklet. The application should be completed in the name of the disabled person, even if it is a child.

When to expect the council’s decision

The legislation states that the council must give you a decision in writing within six months of having received a completed and valid application form. The decision in writing, which will confirm the items the council are prepared to fund, as well as their calculation of the worth, is the Approval Notice.

The Approval Notice will frequently confirm that the total amount of the works is more than the cap for the DFG. Even where the council has confirmed this, you will still only receive an amount up to the total amount allowed, e.g. £30,000 in England.

Unfortunately, the DFG application process can take a number of months. This can be difficult for families, especially if the council have stated that no work can begin until they have issued their decision.

Once the council have issued their Approval Notice confirming items to be covered by the Grant, the work or the relevant DFG work can commence.

What will a council ask for?

The council will confirm in writing whether they will pay the builders directly in respect of the grant works or provide a refund to whoever funded this work.

Most councils will only release the grant funds once the work has been completed.  Frequently, they will require the OT to reassess and confirm the works.

The council may also state that the DFG funds are to be paid out within 12 months of their Approval Notice. If there is a large adaptation project underway or due to commence, the work may take longer than 12 months. If this is the case, you may need to ensure that all of the DFG works have been completed and can be reassessed, even if other parts of the project are ongoing.

Paying back a DFG

If you are a homeowner who has received a DFG to adapt your property, the council who paid the grant will have a requirement for some, or all, of the grant to be repaid if the property is sold within a certain number of years.  For most council’s, this period is ten years. However, you should check this with the relevant council to ensure you are aware of their repayment policy.

Examples of successful Disabled Facilities Grant applications

At Boyes Turner, our court of protection team frequently get involved in DFG applications on behalf of their clients. Some examples of where we have successfully claimed a DFG for clients with awards of compensation are:

  • An 11 year old boy based in the Midlands who, as a result of brain injuries at birth, has quadriplegic cerebral palsy. He received an award of compensation in excess of £2,000,000 and was awarded a full DFG of £30,000.
  • A 7 year old girl based in Berkshire who, as a result of brain injury at birth, is now a permanent wheelchair user. She received an award of compensation in excess of £3,000,000 and was awarded a full DFG of £30,000.

National Cancer Survivors Day - A celebration of life

What is National Cancer Survivors Day?

It is an event for cancer patients (past and present), their families, carers, medical professionals and the general public to celebrate cancer survivorship.

The event aims to be an inspiration for recently diagnosed cancer patients, a collection of support for families, a celebration for survivors and an outreach to the community.

It is also an important event to bring awareness to the life-long challenges cancer survivors face every day, during and after cancer treatment.  These include physical and psychological side effects, social and employment challenges, as well as financial difficulties.National Cancer Survivors Day 2016 - Boyes Turner

When is National Cancer Survivors Day?  

National Cancer Survivors Day is an annual event which takes place on the first Sunday in June.  This year it takes place on Sunday 5 June 2016.

Are you a cancer survivor?

If you’ve had cancer and are living with the side effects of it, then you are.

The National Cancer Survivors Day Foundation defines a “survivor as “anyone living with a history of cancer – from the moment of diagnosis through the remainder of life.”

Our cancer survivors

We recognise that the effects of cancer don’t always end when treatment does.

We have many clients who are brave cancer survivors and are continuing to live with the side effects of the disease and/or the treatment.

Read about our client Josie’s cervical cancer journey and the daily challenges she now faces.

Sadly our clients could have avoided the permanent, life changing side effects with appropriate medical care.  As part of a claim, we strive for our cancer survivors to get their lives back on track by combating the everyday challenges as far as possible.

We will be celebrating National Cancer Survivors Day this year, with our cancer survivors, to honour those who have survived cancer but also to raise awareness of the difficulties cancer survivors face after treatment.

For more information on the event, see the National Cancer Survivors Day Foundation website.

Property adaptations: building the home you deserve

Purchasing your very first home is a real achievement for many people. The stress involved in the negotiations and completion can be soon forgotten when you first walk through the front door, cook your first meal there, or wake up in your bed for the first time. An Englishman’s home is his castle. Or so they say. But for many of our Court of Protection clients, the majority of them children, they will never understand that they are a homeowner and they are unable to take those first steps through their front door.

Whether our clients are injured at birth, or suffer an injury later in life, their lives and the lives of their families are changed forever. They deserve to live in a home that they can use and is adapted to their individual needs, and they need it quickly. At Boyes Turner we have helped countless families purchase and adapt a home when their personal injury claims are ongoing and our specialist Court of Protection team is here to help.

Whether it is a matter of an annex for a care team, a through-floor lift, a tailor made bathroom, or all of the above and more, the independence and quality of life that our clients gain from the work that we do is invaluable. And although many of our brain-injured clients will never have the mental capacity to fully understand the work that we do on their behalf, knowing that they are comfortable and secure for the first time is so gratifying.

Ruth Meyer, who heads up the Court of Protection team at Boyes Turner, was appointed Deputy for property and affairs for T, who was brain-injured at birth as a result of negligent medical treatment. T was diagnosed with quadriplegic cerebral palsy and needed a home that was adapted to her individual needs. T needed hoists to get in and out of her wheelchair, a fully adapted bathroom, through-floor lift, widened doorways and level access throughout. She now has all of these.

Lead by Ruth, the Court of Protection team at Boyes Turner managed agents to search for a suitable property and negotiate the purchase. We liaised with occupational therapists and secured the maximum local authority grant to get her a home suitable for her needs. T and her family are now finally comfortable, secure and able to get on with their lives.

Assisting with property adaptations - Boyes Turner, Court of Protection specialists

What is a Disabled Facilities Grant (DFG)?

A Disabled Facilities Grant (known as a DFG) is an amount of money provided by a local council. It is potentially available to a person if they are required to change their home as a result of themselves, or a family member within the home, being disabled. The grants have been made available by the government under Part 1 of the Housing Grant, Construction and Regeneration Act 1996.

Some examples of items that could be funded by a local council DFG are:

  • Widening of doors for wheelchair access.
  • Installing a ramp to make accessing your home easier.
  • Stair lift.
  • Heating system changes to meet your needs.
  • Changes to heating or lighting controls to make them easier to use.
  • Creation of a downstairs bathroom or wet room, to include items of equipment.
  • Ceiling track hoists.

The above list is however not exhaustive and can change, depending upon an individual’s need following an assessment.

How much will I get if I apply for a Disabled Facilities Grant?

For a disabled adult, the amount received from a DFG will depend upon household income. Eligibility for a DFG for a disabled adult is means tested. As a result, the income and capital of the disabled person and their spouse or partner (collectively referred to as the relevant person) is considered.

Separate to the amount of income the relevant person has in the household; if the household has capital in excess of £6,000 then the means test will mean that you are not eligible. However, if you do not have a working spouse or partner in the household and are in receipt of benefits, you may well be eligible.

People who have received awards of compensation may still be eligible if the funds are held in Trust or are under the control of a Court of Protection appointed Deputy.

Depending on where you live in the UK, the maximum grant available can vary, as follows:

  • England – up to £30,000.
  • Wales – up to £36,000.
  • Northern Ireland – up to £25,000.
  • Disabled Facilities Grants are not available to those who live in Scotland.

You can apply for a DFG if you are a homeowner or a tenant.

Most councils will require you to have employed an architect or a surveyor to plan and oversee the work to the property.

Using a Disabled Facilities Grant to adapt your home

Many councils require you to apply for a grant before any work on the property has begun. The way the council deals with when the work can start varies greatly. Some councils will allow adaptations to commence while the DFG application is being considered, although the work or equipment relevant to the DFG application cannot be started. However, some councils will state that no work whatsoever can be commenced until the outcome of the DFG application has been determined. This would be irrespective of whether the work impacts upon items to be claimed as part of a DFG.

The council will confirm their position in writing. You must always ensure you know the council’s stance on the work commencing before it starts. A DFG application cannot be made retrospectively. A council can also reject an application if the work has started before they have given permission for it to start.

Many councils will require at least two quotes from different contractors. If the DFG appropriate works form part of a much larger property adaptation project, the council may require sight of the tenders. You should ensure that the council has confirmed their requirements in this regard.

If the DFG works form part of a larger adaptation project, the council will usually allow you to choose which contractor you prefer. You will however be required to advise the council which contractor has been chosen.

Examples of successful Disabled Facilities Grant applications

At Boyes Turner, our court of protection team frequently get involved in DFG applications on behalf of their clients. Some examples of where we have successfully claimed a DFG for clients with awards of compensation are:

  • An 11 year old boy based in the Midlands who, as a result of brain injuries at birth, has quadriplegic cerebral palsy. He received an award of compensation in excess of £2,000,000 and was awarded a full DFG of £30,000.
  • A 7 year old girl based in Berkshire who, as a result of brain injury at birth, is now a permanent wheelchair user. She received an award of compensation in excess of £3,000,000 and was awarded a full DFG of £30,000.

Reflections - My London Paralympics 2012 pilgrimage by Alexander Christmas

We would like to introduce our guest writer, Alexander Christmas, who has kindly agreed to provide three short articles for our website. Alexander has been a client of the firm for many years. We manage his Personal Injury Trust which was set up due to injuries at birth which meant that Alexander has quadriplegic cerebral palsy.

Despite these disabilities Alexander is living life to the full and is currently studying for his Masters at The University of St Marks and St John in Plymouth. This series of short articles is on topics that Alexander has personally experienced as a person with disabilities and this article on the London Paralympics is the first of three:

I cannot believe it has been over three years since I was lucky enough to attend a number of events at the London 2012 Paralympic Games. Like the rest of the country, I was thrilled when London was selected to host the greatest show on earth. Although I greatly enjoyed watching the Olympics on television, it simply is incomparable to witnessing the sports first hand. 

The journey from Devon to London was an unforgettable adventure in itself.  Travelling with a handful of likeminded disabled teenagers, the five hour coach trip was filled with laughs (most of them inappropriate!) and very much set the mood for the rest of the week. Our accommodation was… interesting to say the least. Renting out miniscule student digs for disabled teenagers with large powerchairs and other bulky equipment was an unusual choice but somehow we all survived with ourselves and our gear relatively intact.

Navigating the city and Olympic park was definitely a new experience. Not being a fan of crowds, I was hugely nervous and apprehensive about the thought of navigating through potentially thousands of people. Luckily, the positive atmosphere and can-do attitudes of the people I was with carried me through and helped me overcome my worries. I’m very proud to say that I did not hit a single person with my chair for the whole of the trip.

The park itself was an amazing sight to behold in person. Despite the volume of people who were present at all times, there were enough sign posts to ensure that everyone knew exactly where they were going with little chance of getting lost. It was an amazing sight to see so many euphorically happy and enthusiastic people. From the first moment I entered the park, I knew I was in for something special.

During the four day visit, I was lucky enough to see three events. First of all was the Swimming. The atmosphere inside the Aquatic Centre was what made this so special. There was nothing but positivity with the entirety of the crowd cheering until the finial swimmer finished. Although it was only the heats, it felt like I was watching the final.

Next up was Archery. Whereas I was sat at the back in the Aquatic Centre, I had a front row seat for the Archery. I was so close I was able to high-five the British competitor as he wheeled along less than a metre in front of me. I have never been a fan of Archery, but once again the excitement of seeing an international competition in the flesh was nothing short of thrilling.

Finally, it was Wheelchair Basketball in the O2 arena. As with the Archery, I did not have a huge interest in Basketball, but the setting and the crowds really made it for me. Knowing a few people who play Wheelchair Basketball, It was thrilling to be able to see it being played at such a high level.

The London Paralympics truly was a once in a lifetime event. Even though it was three years ago, the memories of it are still fresh in my mind. I doubt I will experience another sporting event so utterly magical and unforgettable.

Success for our solicitors in the Older Client Care in Practice (OCCP) Award

Partner Ruth Meyer and Associate Solicitor Emma-Jane Kurtz are both members of Solicitors for the Elderly (SFE), which is the leading training and best practice organisation for solicitors who specialise in older and vulnerable clients.

SFE provides practical advice, knowhow and best practice information for working lawyers and signposts members of the public who are seeking solicitors specialising in working for the elderly and vulnerable.

Ruth and Emma-Jane have recently completed the Older Client Care in Practice (OCCP) Award, an externally accredited award, focusing on specialist client care skills that enable them to advise and support older and vulnerable clients.

The majority of our clients are vulnerable due to either a brain injury acquired at birth or in infancy, or following an accident, or caused by the onset of a disease, such as dementia. We are particularly conscious of our disabled clients. Our office has parking for the disabled immediately outside, a ramp to the main door and lift access to our offices on the 4th floor. Some of our clients are particularly sensitive to light or heat and we adjust our meeting rooms accordingly to suit their needs.

In order to act for our vulnerable clients in the most effective way, we seek to assist them not just with legal knowledge but by being aware of their additional needs, for example considering where the most appropriate location for a meeting might be, explaining legal matters to them in a clear way or keeping in mind what issues are particularly important to them when assisting them with their financial affairs.

The OCCP Award is not about legal training; its focus is on demonstrating and building good client service and communications for older and vulnerable client by being able to communicate and translate legal expertise into clear explanations and guiding them through the process sensitively. Ruth and Emma-Jane will continue to use their skills to assist our most vulnerable clients with the variety of issues which they have to deal with every day.

Congratulations to both of them for completing the OCCP Award!

VAT exemptions available for disabled people

Many of our clients qualify as disabled under the Equality Act 2010 and are therefore entitled to an exemption of Value Added Tax (VAT) on products adapted to their use and the installation, maintenance of and parts for those products. There is also an exemption available on building works to adapt properties for disabled people and vehicles for wheelchair users. This article looks at some of the items which qualify for VAT exemption.

For VAT purposes a person qualifies for VAT exemption if they:

  • have a physical or mental impairment that affects the ability to carry out everyday activities, e.g. blindness or
  • have a condition that’s treated as chronic sickness, e.g. diabetes or
  • are terminally ill.

There are a wide range of products for the home to which the exemption applies such as:

  • adjustable beds
  • stair lifts
  • smaller items such as alarms
  • braille paper
  • wheelchairs, mobility scooters and aids to assist with getting in and out of vehicles.

VAT is currently charged at 20%, so this is a valuable exemption. For example, a wheelchair can cost £5,000 so the VAT would be an additional £1,000.

We have a number of clients who have cerebral palsy, often caused by negligence at birth. Many of our clients require a property which is significantly adapted to their daily needs. These adaptations include building extensions for therapy rooms and hydrotherapy pools, the installation of adapted bathrooms or wet rooms, fitted hoists and tracks to assist with lifting and moving between rooms in the property and widened doors and ramps to allow for the use of a wheelchair.

Care must be taken to ensure that the VAT exemption is applied correctly to all work carried out which is designed or adapted for a disability. Adaptations which qualify for a complete exemption are ‘zero-rated’ which means that no VAT is charged by the builders carrying out the works or the supplier of the goods. Some adaptations may qualify for a reduced rate of VAT at 5% if they are for people who are over the age of 60 but not disabled or suffering from a chronic illness. This reduced rate can apply to items such as ramps, stair lifts, walk-in showers and adapted baths. It is the responsibility of the builder or supplier to ensure that the work or products are charged at the correct rate and that they are for the domestic or personal use of the disabled person. Usually it will be necessary for the disabled person, or their representative, to sign a declaration that they are eligible for the VAT exemption.

Vehicles can also be exempt from VAT, if they qualify. There are specific rules regarding zero-rated adapted vehicles for wheelchair users. There rules are very detailed but in summary, a vehicle can be supplied at zero-rate of VAT if the following conditions are met:

  • the vehicle is being supplied to a disabled person who usually uses a wheelchair to be mobile – someone who uses the wheelchair occasionally or temporarily will not qualify
  • the vehicle is permanently and substantially adapted to transport a wheelchair user or to allow a wheelchair to be carried
  • the vehicle is for the domestic and personal use of the disabled wheelchair user
  • the user has given the necessary VAT declaration.

The repair and maintenance of an adapted vehicle can also be zero-rated if the work relates to a vehicle that was zero-rated when it was originally supplied and if the necessary VAT declaration is given by the customer.

It should also be remembered that disabled people who receive the higher rate mobility component of Disability Living Allowance or the enhanced rate mobility component of Personal Independence Payment are exempt from paying vehicle tax.

If you are a Deputy or a solicitor for someone who is disabled or has a long-term illness, claiming a VAT exemption on goods or services should not be overlooked and, particularly with regards to large-scale property adaptations, the VAT rating for all work and products must be checked to ensure that the correct rate has been applied.

Direct payments and the Community Care Act 2014

I act for a young lady called Jane who was injured at birth. She is now 23 years of age and suffers from cerebral palsy and severe learning difficulties. Her needs are considerable and her mother and a team of carers work tirelessly to assist her. She will never lead a normal life and needs assistance with the most basic things. 

Fortunately Jane received an award for compensation for negligence when she was ten years old and this is used to pay for her carers and other expenses such as equipment. The costs add up quickly though and there is no annual periodical payment! Jane’s lump sum award, although carefully invested, has not been able to keep up with the demands of her increased care fees.

The care costs were averaging around £70,000 per year and various forecasts and calculations showed that the Trust would run out of money once Jane was in her late 30’s and then she would be fully reliant on State support.

Jane was assessed by her Local Authority for direct payments. Her actual income from the Trust was insufficient to meet her care needs and direct payments were granted to cover the majority of her care.

However, what are the rules on entitlement to direct payments? What is the impact of having a Personal Injury Trust or an award of compensation managed by a deputy of the Court of Protection.

Presently this is a very grey area. As the law stands, Local Authorities have a discretionary power to make reasonable charges for non-residential services for adults such as carers at home and service users, such as Jane, can be allocated a personal budget to fund their care by way of direct payment.

The Department of Health issued mandatory guidance to Local Authorities in the “fairer charging policies for home and care and other non-residential social services”. This was last updated in June 2013 and should be read in conjunction with “The Fairer Contributions Guidance 2010” which sets out how Local Authorities calculate the contribution a service user should make.

My client, Jane, was allocated a personal budget to fund her care by way of direct payments and her mother helped organise and pay for the carers from this. However, the amount payable (subject to financial assessment) is at the discretion of the Local Authority and whether you receive direct payments or not depends on which Local Authority you are in and their own resources.

Before a payment can be made the Local Authority undertakes a means test of the service users resources and the majority of service users income is required to be paid towards the cost of the care.

However, charging disregards for personal injury awards are not specifically mentioned in the “Fairer Charging Guidance” for adults who need care at home.

In the case of Crofton vs NHS Litigation Authority [2007] EWCA Civ the Judge held that the treatment of income was a matter for the discretion of the Local Authority. The consequence of this is that some Local Authorities will take it into account and others will not for means testing purposes. In addition Crofton did not specifically focus on the capital disregards of a Personal Injury Trust and it has remained a grey area.

This has led to arguments with the Local Authorities as to whether the capital and income of a Personal Injury trust should be taken into account.

The good news is that the Community Care Act 2014 comes into force as of 1 April 2015 which creates a single framework for the charging of the care and support and clarifies matters. From this the mandatory guidance makes clear that income from a Personal Injury Trust, including those administered by the Court such as Deputyships must be disregarded. This has now removed any doubt and provides clear guidance. This is a great relief for Jane and her family who have constantly worried that the Local Authority would remove support and this would have ultimately meant the depletion of her funds and full reliance on State support in the future.

Fifty Shades of Capacity'

A person’s legal capacity to make decisions is rarely clear cut and can often be extremely difficult to assess. This is because they may have the ability to understand one particular issue but not others. To confuse things further, also, just because a person has capacity on one day it doesn’t necessarily follow that they will have it on the next or indeed even at a later time on that same day.

Where a person lacks capacity to manage their assets and make their own decisions a deputy is appointed by the Court of Protection. I have been a professional deputy for well over a decade and much of my time is spent working directly for clients managing their affairs and finances. I also provide help and assistance to parents who are deputies for their own children and many of the questions I get asked concern welfare issues.

One of these recently came my way from the parents of one of my clients, a young lady called Sarah. She was severely injured at birth resulting in cerebral palsy and severe learning difficulties. Her general level of understanding is similar to that of a young child and up until she was thirty, Sarah lived with her parents who were also her full time carers. For the last five years she has been in assisted living accommodation, is well looked after and makes lots friends.

The issue that occurred at first sight may seem trivial, a planned trip to the cinema organised by Sarah’s assisted living accommodation carers. Normally, this wouldn’t have been a problem – if the film had been appropriate for their daughter.

However, when Sarah’s parents heard that the movie was Fifty Shades of Grey they were very concerned. The film has an 18 certificate and contains explicit sex and violence as well as very strong language. According to the British Board of Film Classification, films rated 18 are for adults only and not suitable for children. No-one under 18 is allowed to see an 18 film at the cinema or buy or rent an 18 rated video.

For many parents with a child that has reduced capacity, seeing this type of film would be a major worry. This is the view that Sarah’s parents had and they believed that their daughter would have found Fifty Shades of Grey both extremely confusing and distressing. When they asked the home about the film’s suitability, they were told that as Sarah was over 18 that she could make this decision herself.

Sarah’s parents came to us wanting to know where they stood legally in terms of their own views as to what their adult daughter could watch.

The general rule in this type of situation is that if a person is over 18, and has capacity then they are able to make the decision themselves. However, under the Mental Capacity Act 2005 “if at the material time the person is unable to make a decision for themselves in relation to the matter because of an impairment of, or a disturbance of the functioning of the mind or brain” – they lack the required capacity to make the decision.

Given Sarah’s situation and severe learning difficulties it was obvious that she didn’t have the required capacity and that any welfare decision should be made in her “best interests”. The question that the home should have considered is whether or not Sarah had sufficient capacity to make the decision to see Fifty Shades of Grey.

Under Section 4 of the Mental Capacity Act 2005 the residents’ home should consult and take the views of:

  • Anyone named by the person as someone to be consulted on the matter in question or on matters of that kind.
  • Anyone engaged in caring for the person or interested in his welfare.
  • Any done of a Lasting Power of Attorney granted by the person.
  • Any deputy appointed for the person by the Court.

I explained to Sarah’s parents that, as she was over 18, if she had capacity then she could make the decision as to whether to see the film herself. However, from what they said it became quite clear that she did not have capacity to make this decision and would be confused by what she would see and may even be upset.

I confirmed to the parents that if Sarah did not have capacity then any welfare decision would need to be made in what would be in her “best interests”.  Under section 4 of the Mental Capacity Act the residents’ home should consult and take the views of:

  1. Anyone named by the person as someone to be consulted on the matter in question or on matters of that kind;
  2. Anyone engaged in caring for the person or interested in his welfare;
  3. Any done of a Lasting Power of Attorney granted by the person; and
  4. Any deputy appointed for the person by the Court.

From this it is clear that Sarah’s parents should have been contacted by the home before considering the film as they had an interest in Sarah’s welfare. On reflection, the residents home subsequently decided that it no longer wished to take residents to see the film.

To prevent this type of situation from occurring again, Sarah’s parents were advised to write to the residents home to inform them that if a difficult decision needed to be made that they should be consulted as they were interested in their daughter’s welfare and that their views needed to be taken into account (according to the Mental Capacity Act).

When determining a person’s capacity to make a decision there are a large number of issues that need to be taken into consideration. It is rarely ever clear cut, and therefore often worthwhile appointing a professional deputy.

A day in the life...Anne Pearson, Court of Protection

One of the most important issues for a deputy is the purchase and adaptation of a property which will be able to meet all the needs of the disabled person, their family and carers. This applies to adults and children alike.

PEARSON-Anne-COP

A deputy is therefore kept very busy dealing with the purchase and adaptation of properties, which can be anywhere in the UK.

I have been appointed as the deputy for a young girl who, as a result of negligence at the time of her birth, has severe quadriplegic cerebral palsy. The family live in Norfolk and, although in a Housing Association bungalow, their house is not big enough to meet her complex care needs.

The family have located a suitable property just a few miles away which is ideal for adaptation. Following the successful purchase of this property, using my client’s funds, the process of adaptation has now commenced.

The contractors have now started working on adapting the property. I have been asked to attend the first monthly site meeting involving the contractor, family and project manager, as a problem has been discovered  that was not originally foreseen and therefore has a cost consequence.

The meeting was arranged for 11am on a Monday. As I am based in Reading, I am required to set off early enough to arrive at the property in time for the meeting. My choice of travel is train, as this means I can use my time efficiently and work while I am travelling.

My day starts at 6.30am when I arrive at the railway station. The weather is very bad and it is raining very heavily. Hopefully, this is not a sign of difficulties to come!

I settle into working on the train and, before I know it, I have arrived at Ipswich. I am required to change trains as I need to get a branch line train heading to Felixstowe. I arrive in Ipswich with 10 minutes to spare before my next train. Everything is going well.

I catch the branch line train and although it is still raining very heavily, all is going well.

We go through the first station without incident and arrive at stop number two. I am due to get off the train at the third stop and am pleased that I will be able to arrive at the meeting just before 11am.

Unfortunately, that is where my good day ended! The brakes on the train lock and despite a lot of rushing around from the driver, he is unable to release them. I am then left with two choices, get off the train one stop short of my destination or stay on the train and travel all the way back to Ipswich. This was not an option as I would have been unable to get to my destination for the meeting.

I therefore get off the train in the pouring rain and discover that I am the middle of nowhere! I manage to get hold of the family, who call a cab to pick me up.

By the time the cab arrives I am soaked and realise I am going to be late for the meeting. The driver does his best to get me to my destination by 11am but as he is faced with a number of flooded roads, I become late.

I finally arrive at the property at 11.10am, so thankfully not too late. I join the meeting and am able to participate in resolving the problem that has arisen in a way that will add to the cost of the works, but by not too much.

The meeting involves me as deputy, the family, the contractor undertaking the property adaptations and the project manager, who is overseeing the whole project. An issue had arisen at this particular property, during the adaptations which required my input as the deputy, as a result of there being an additional cost consequence. The meeting went well and how the problem could be resolved was reached, to the satisfaction of everyone.

After the meeting I am faced with another problem, the branch line I need to catch to get back to Ipswich has been cancelled, as a result of my earlier broken down train. I am therefore stuck in Norfolk. However, the family I was with are fantastic and drive me to Ipswich so I can catch my train back to London.

Although very tiring and eventful, it was a productive day, which resulted in the successful resolution of a problem at the client’s new house.

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The service provided was first class. You were understanding, caring and professional

David Froud

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