Harrow Council has dropped plans to restrict adult care services to those with “critical” needs, five months after losing a judicial review on the issue.
The council said a big improvement in its financial position meant it could continue to provide services to adults with “substantial” and “critical” care needs, under the fair access to care services (FACS) system.
This reverses a decision taken last July to raise the threshold in a bid to recoup £1.5m a year, equivalent to the council’s overspend on adult care in 2006-7, which would have excluded up to 500 people with substantial needs from publicly-funded care.
Under FACS, a substantial need includes cases where people cannot carry out the majority of personal care or domestic tasks, or when abuse or neglect has taken place, and the proposal would have made Harrow only the fourth council in England to have a critical threshold.
However, the decision was halted by a successful judicial review brought on behalf of service users last December. The High Court ruled the decision was unlawful because the council had not fully considered the need to eliminate discrimination against disabled people and promote equality of opportunity between disabled people and others. Under the Disability Discrimination Act 2005, public bodies are required to do so.
The council said that it had managed to save £16m in 2007-8 and was on course to save £12m from its budget in 2008-9, meaning it had no financial need to cut care services. However, it reiterated claims that it was underfunded compared to other London authorities, saying its government grant was £212 less per resident than the London average.
Overall, eligibility criteria for adult social care has risen in England over the past two years, with 73% of councils having at least a substantial threshold, as of April this year, up from 53% in April 2006.
Concerns over the trend, and inequality in access to services around the country, prompted the government to order a review into FACS, which is being carried out by the Commission for Social Care Inspection, in January. It is due to report in September.