Court allows challenge to council’s rise in care threshold

The High Court has allowed a legal challenge against Isle of Wight Council's decision to raise eligibility thresholds for adult care, limiting access to those substantial needs.

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The High Court has allowed a legal challenge against Isle of Wight Council’s decision to raise eligibility thresholds for adult care, limiting access to those substantial needs.

Lawyers acting for two severely disabled men have won the right to a full hearing at the High Court over the council’s decision to restrict support to those with critical care needs or those with substantial needs who are deemed to be “at greatest risk of being unable to remain at home safely”.

The challenge was launched on behalf of two 32-year-old men, known as JM and NT, who both rely on their families and formal services to provide the 24-hour care they need. JM has severe autism and brain damage and is non-verbal to anyone other than his parents, while NT has atypical autism and a learning disability.

The plans outlined by the council, which aims to save £1.6m a year in adult social care, will see 1,100 people being reassessed and potentially losing all or parts of their social care packages as a result of the planned changes.

The claimants’ law firm, Irwin Mitchell, has sought the judicial review on the grounds that the council failed to have due regard to the need to promote equality for disabled people under the Disability Discrimination Act 1995. This is the grounds on which two successful challenges to council decisions to raise eligibility thresholds to critical have been brought in the past four years, in Harrow in 2007 and Birmingham this year.

Irwin Mitchell added that the Isle of Wight’s decision failed to meet legal requirements in a number of areas – particularly its lack of clarity in relation to which groups would be affected, and what the options were for those people who would have their care package removed.

It also considers the claimant’s human rights to have been severely compromised.

“This is sadly just one of a number of examples we are seeing at the moment where local councils under pressure to cut costs are looking to remove their own responsibility to meet the needs of many disabled people and riding roughshod over the needs and legal rights of some of society’s most vulnerable individuals,” said Anne-Marie Irwin, a solicitor on the public law team at Irwin Mitchell’s London office.

Ian Anderson, Isle of Wight Council’s director for community wellbeing and social care said: “We are disappointed by this decision and will need to consider fully its implications before commenting further.”

The case is the latest in a series of legal challenges against adult social care cuts brought by Irwin Mitchell, which successfully brought the case against Birmingham’s plan to raise thresholds from substantial to critical.

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