Birmingham Council is facing a legal challenge over its plan to set an unprecedentedly high “super-critical” threshold for adult care.
Lawyers acting for a 65-year-old woman with significant learning disabilities, Ms A, have lodged a claim for judicial review on the grounds that the council’s consultation was unlawful.
This could be the first of many similar challenges to council cuts as law firm Irwin Mitchell, which is instructed by Ms A’s sister-in-law, said it was acting for a number of vulnerable residents facing cuts across the country.
Under cost-cutting plans announced in December, Birmingham would become the first local authority in the country to restrict formal council-funded care to people with critical personal care needs.
People with substantial needs and critical needs that do not involve personal care, such as support with family life, would be excluded from support under the proposals, under consultation until 2 March.
Birmingham wrote to Ms A in February, explaining that the plans might affect her future care and support at her residential home in Solihull.
“The letter sent out by the council is difficult to understand and fails to take into consideration that the target audience have learning difficulties or disabilities,” said Paula Sweeney, solicitor within Irwin Mitchell’s public law team.
“The information is vague and I think it is unreasonable to expect someone reading it to make an informed response.”
The firm is claiming that this breached provisions in the Disability Discrimination Act 1995 for councils to pay due regard to the need to promote disability equality in their decisions.
Sweeney said the council had failed to outline clearly which groups would be affected by the cut and the options available for people who will have their care package removed.
Papers have been lodged at the High Court though a date has not yet been set for the case to proceed.
Birmingham Council declined to comment on the pending legal action.
The case mirrors action brought by lawyers acting for voluntary groups in London, who successfully argued that London Councils had failed to comply with statutory equality duties during its consultation on planned cuts to charitable funding.
Meanwhile, the legality of councils cuts to care may soon be considered by the highest court in the land. The Supreme Court is considering whether to hear a challenge to an appeal court ruling that Kensington and Chelsea Council acted lawfully in withdrawing care from a former ballerina despite unchanged circumstances.
The case was seen as opening the door to councils finding cheaper ways of meeting users’ assessed needs.
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