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A mother-of-five, with two disabled children, was given such inadequate council housing she had to hose her son down in the garden.

Bury Council has been accused of "institutional indifference" by the local government ombudsman, who investigated the case.

Anne Seex said in her report the mother had struggled for four years in below-standard properties.

The council said it had "let the family down" and has apologised to the mother.

The mother, named in the report as Mrs M, also has arthritis, diabetes, and suffers from constant pain from having to lift her disabled children.

Her sons, aged 10 and 19, have a genetic muscle-wasting condition.

They have no mobility and need 24-hour care and assistance with feeding, dressing, bathing and toileting.

The younger of the two is also blind and has severe learning disabilities.

The investigation found that the council had moved the family to a house in 2004 with the intention of building an extension so that she did not have to carry her children up the stairs.

But it had not checked whether this would require planning permission and councillors subsequently refused permission 18 months later.

Out of desperation, the mother said she would hose her son down in the back garden because she did not have the strength to lift him.

The investigation reported that "the council's maladministration led to the family suffering a severe injustice".

It said the council recorded after a meeting between the family and social workers in 2004 that "the children are being denied basic human rights in this current situation, and without support in the home immediately the family are at risk of breakdown and the children may need to become accommodated".

But it took another two years before the family received the help they needed.

Ms Seex who investigated the concerns said: "This must have been degrading for the children and heartbreaking for their mother."

She recommended the council apologise to the family and make three annual payments of £6,000 each to Mrs M and her older disabled child.

It also recommended it provide a fund of £5,000 for items and activities chosen by the other children in the family "in recognition of the effect on them of the situation".

The council spokeswoman said the family were now in appropriate accommodation.

She said: "This has been a difficult, challenging and complex case. However, we fully accept the findings of the local government ombudsman report.

"It is clear that we have let this family down over an extended period and that we should have done much more to help this family.

"Since this case came to light we have reviewed procedures and improved communications and coordination within our structures.

"We would like to pass on our sincere apologies to the family and we will learn from the findings of this report."
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