A charity is taking Harrow Council to the High Court over its decision to tighten up its adult care eligibility criteria to meet “critical” needs only.
A judicial review will take place in October after the Public Law Project was granted permission last week. Harrow Council has agreed to delay introducing the policy until 31 October, postponing it by two months, so the full review can take place.
But the Learning Disability Coalition is concerned that Harrow is setting a “dangerous precedent” as the first London borough to set a “critical” only baseline for care. Councils in Northumberland, West Berkshire and Wokingham have already introduced this policy.
“These are the forgotten people of our country,” said Dame Jo Williams, chief executive of Mencap and co-chair of the Learning Disability Coalition. “I find it inconceivable that learning disabled people with substantial needs can be deprived of the care they need. As an advanced, democratic and affluent society, how can we tolerate this neglect?”
Karen Flood, co-chair of the Learning Disability Coalition and the National Forum for People with Learning Disabilities added: “If this trend is allowed to develop I am worried that we will see more abuse of people with learning disabilities. This is a disaster waiting to happen.”
The PLP is representing three Harrow service users with substantial needs. Although the three individuals are not in supported living accommodation, the council’s decision would cut their access to services in the community, said Louise Whitfield, project solicitor for PLP
Whitfield argues that the council’s policy is “unlawful” on the grounds that the consultation process was flawed and the policy breaches basic human and disability rights. The PLP applied for a judicial review after the council’s scrutiny committee threw out an appeal to retract the decision.
“If services are withdrawn it could potentially leave people in serious situations,” said Whitfield.
Harrow Council has introduced a number of actions to address concerns over their policy but Whitfield believes they are “insufficient”. These include assessing people as “critical” if they are at risk of abuse, are led to change their accommodation status if a need is not met or are deemed to reach a critical level within 12 weeks of assessment. It also plans to invest £250,000 into the voluntary sector for services to meet “substantial” needs.
A Council spokesman said he was unable to comment on this issue because of the impending judicial review.
Mencap demands investigation into Harrow Council’s care review process
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