Suffolk County Council rebuked over audio book subscription cancellations

PUBLISHED: 12:51 19 October 2012

The HQ of Suffolk County Council

The HQ of Suffolk County Council

Suffolk County Council acted wrongly when it cancelled the subscriptions of 250 people to the audio books service provided by the Royal National Institute for the Blind (RNIB), according to the Local Government Ombudsman.

The council decided to withdraw the service to anyone who used it to hire fewer than 20 books over the previous year and went on to cancel their subscriptions, which each cost £82 a year.

But the RNIB lodged the complaint on behalf of seven people with visual impairment.

Ombudsman Dr Jane Martin identified six ways in which the council had been at fault in the way it had withdrawn the service from some clients.

She said: “They will rightly feel aggrieved that they have lost out on an opportunity to influence a decision affecting them and to have a say in what and how services are provided to them.”

Dr Martin criticised the arbitrary way the “20 books of fewer” figure was set and applied without enough consultation.

Her report says the county has now agreed to look again at the cases of the 250 people whose subscriptions were cancelled, and if a social care assessment showed any of the subscriptions were needed they would be reinstated.

A spokesman for Suffolk County Council said: “As the Ombudsman has made clear, we have acknowledged the findings and agreed to implement all the recommendations in this report.

“We have already updated our training for staff - which includes providing further training on our equality duties.

“We are looking at each case where subscriptions to Talking Books have been stopped and are contacting each of those people to assess the impact on them.”

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