VULNERABLE and elderly residents were left with rubbish dangerously piling up due to “systemic failures” within a council’s waste collection department.

The assisted lift waste service is supposed to help vulnerable residents who can’t move their waste onto the street for collection, due to disability, medical conditions or pregnancy.

Three unnamed women in Cardiff using the service complained to the Public Services Ombudsman it was unreliable and collections were often missed.

The ombudsman found Cardiff council did not adequately respond to complaints, despite the affected residents making hundreds of calls.

The authority has now issued a formal apology and promised to carry out a review into the service to avoid similar failures in future.

Nick Bennett, Public Services Ombudsman for Wales, said: “During the last three years, we have received a number of very similar complaints about Cardiff council’s assisted lift service.

“Despite the council’s commitment to take action to resolve residents’ concerns, we continued to receive complaints about the same issues, pointing to systemic problems with this service. This is exactly what we found during our investigation.”

The ombudsman report found the assisted lift service was not reliable, waste collections were missed repeatedly, and bins were sometimes left in unsafe positions. This caused unnecessary stress to residents, as well as health and safety hazards.

The ombudsman recommended the council pay the three complainants for financial redress, as well as handling future complaints about the service consistently and effectively, comprehensively review the service, and produce an action plan for improving the service.

Mr Bennett added: “Two of the complainants in this case were in their nineties. It is simply unacceptable that they should suffer the indignity of such an unreliable service for such a prolonged period of time.

“It is equally unacceptable that the council should fail to properly acknowledge or act on the residents’ concerns, despite receiving repeated formal complaints and hundreds of calls. I can well understand why one of the complainants in this case told us that she was ‘at her wits’ end’ in relation to her dealings with the council.

“In accepting the residents’ applications for the assisted lift service, the council committed to help them access its waste collection services. By persistently failing to address missed collections and other problems with the assisted lift service, the council failed to honour that commitment.

“We are very concerned that these problems might be affecting other vulnerable residents.  This is reflected in our recommendations for the council to rapidly improve its assisted lift service for the benefit of all residents.”

MORE NEWS:

Cardiff council accepted the findings and agreed to implement the recommendations promptly. One council boss said the failures were “totally unacceptable” but changes made last year to waste collections have improved the service, and a review will take place soon.

Neil Hanratty, the council’s director for economic development, said: “The council would like to take this opportunity to issue a full and sincere apology to those vulnerable citizens that received a substandard service from our assisted lift scheme.

“The council is determined to improve performance and customer service in this area and recognises it fell well short of the standards it sets for itself. The number of missed collections, the extent of repeat missed collections, and the poor level of customer service experienced by some residents was totally unacceptable.

“Alongside accepting all of the ombudsman’s recommendations, the council will be undertaking a further review of the assisted-lift service. Some new measures were introduced across the waste service when the council moved all collections to a single-shift system last year and 99.92 per cent of our collections are now being achieved on time.

“A further review will help make sure that repeat concerns are properly escalated and dealt with in a timely fashion. We accept that our customer service wasn’t anywhere near good enough and we are determined to improve it.”

If you value The National's journalism, help grow our team of reporters by becoming a subscriber.