Council adult services officers are wrongly being made out to be the “villains of the piece” because of the cuts they are having to implement, a leading director warned today after his authority lost a key legal case.
Association of Directors of Adult Social Services president Peter Hay was speaking after a judge ruled that a decision by his council, Birmingham, to raise its eligibility threshold for care from ‘substantial’ to ‘critical’ was unlawful.
In an interim judgement, Mr Justice Walker ruled that the council had failed to pay due regard to the impact of its plans on disabled people during the decision-making process, contravening the Disability Discrimination Act. He indicated the council would need to review its plans.
However Hay, Birmingham’s adult and communities director, said officers were only trying to do their best with constrained finances, resulting from government cuts.
“What’s concerning me more is that officers are being made to be villains of the peace. We are trying to meet a challenge and there are lots of challenges out there.
“Somebody has to construct a way of operating on the fact there’s less money. That’s what we will still try and do,” he said.
Up to 5,000 people in Birmingham could have had all or parts of their social care packages withdrawn under the plans.
Hay said the council would await the full judgement, which is due next month, and consider the proposed remedy before deciding whether to appeal, but said people needed to understand there was a gap in funding. However he conceded there were implications in the ruling.
“We need to see a full detailed judgement to look at what the court’s thinking is,” he added.
The Birmingham ruling has national implications said Barry Pickthall of West Sussex-based Don’t Cut Us Out campaign, which is considering mounting a legal challenge against that council’s decision to raise eligibility from moderate to substantial.
“It’s very positive and it’s going to have an impact on all those campaigns that are seeking a judicial review. There’s a lot to be learned from this,” he said.
Sarah Pickup, Adass vice-president, said: “The decision taken by Birmingham is one of many difficult decisions that councils around the country are having to take in order to balance their budgets in the face of reduced resources.
“Despite significant financial pressures, all authorities understand the need to have regard to the Disabilities Discrimination Act 2010 and the impact on equality those decisions will have.”
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