Disability and human rights campaigners have attacked a High Court judgement yesterday which ruled NHS-funded service users could not receive direct payments.
The Equality and Human Rights Commission, National Centre for Independent Living and disability network Radar all condemned the judgement, which concerned two disabled people, Steve Harrison and Valerie Garnham.
Both had formerly received direct payments but lost the right to them when they were assessed as eligible for NHS continuing care. However, the judgement comes with the government legislating through the current Health Bill to permit direct payments for healthcare.
The EHRC intervened in the case, arguing that disabled people had the right to control over their own care arrangements, regardless of whether they were funded by the NHS or councils.
Legal director John Wadham said: “The decision is disappointing, not only for Mr Harrison and Mrs Garnham, but also for the principle that disabled people should be given the independence to take control of their lives.”
Radar chief executive Liz Sayce called on the primary care trusts involved to “reconsider this decision to remove independence and control from two people for no reason than bureaucratic convenience”.
NCIL director Sue Bott said: “Thankfully, the government is aware of the need for action to address the situation and is progressing a Health Bill now to enable people to access direct payments for certain services. We hope today’s decision will ensure legislation is passed swiftly.”
Steve Harrison was left tetraplegic following an accident in 1988 and needs assistance with most activities of daily life, including bathing and dressing. He originally received direct payments from Wakefield Council but funding for his care was then transferred to Wakefield PCT, and he lost the right to the payments.
Valerie Garnham has been severely disabled since birth and requires help with all aspects of her daily care. She had been receiving care and direct payments from Islington Council, London, but following a tracheotomy in 2002, she was assessed as needing continuing care and came under Islington PCT’s responsibility.