Campaigners have failed in their legal challenge to stop Hammersmith and Fulham Council in London from charging older and disabled people for home care.
The High Court ruled in favour of the west London borough in a judicial review, allowing means-tested fees of up to £10 an hour to come into effect this week.
Previously, Hammersmith and Fulham had been among approximately 3% of English councils to offer the services for free.
In a hearing in November, lawyers for three disabled residents in the borough - backed by campaign group the Hammersmith and Fulham Coalition against Community Care Cuts (HAFCAC) - argued that the council had failed to conduct a proper assessment of the impact of its policy on disabled people.
Although the judge, Sir Michael Harrison, criticised some aspects of the decision-making process, he threw out the claim after hearing evidence from the council.
He also rejected the allegation put by solicitors from the Public Law Project that the authority’s Conservative-controlled executive unlawfully ignored a manifesto promise not to introduce the charges.
A statement from HAFCAC said it was “deeply disappointed” by the ruling, and the disabled residents were planning to appeal “subject to detailed consideration of the written judgment”.
Kevin Caulfield, chair of HAFCAC, said “This judicial decision sadly demonstrates that institutionalised discrimination against disabled and older people that require independent living support is alive and well.”
The council defended its decision to bring back home care fees, which had previously been in place in Hammersmith and Fulham between 2000 and 2006.
Eligibility will stay the same
Antony Lillis, cabinet member for community and children's services, said although the decision to introduce charges was not taken lightly, it meant the council remained among only a quarter of local authorities in London which offer support to adults with moderate needs.
He added that officials consulted “widely across the community” before the council approved the decision in June last year.
The council has the option to raise the charges to £12.40 an hour.
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