Landmark ruling on assets creates stir

A landmark legal ruling by law lords on the issue of older
people’s assets could have major implications for social services
in Scotland, as well as some fallout for English authorities.

The House of Lords judgement ruled that Fife Council was wrong
to refuse to arrange residential care for local woman Mary
Robertson because Fife suspected she had transferred her house to
her children to avoid being liable for charges.

The decision, which overturns an earlier ruling by the Court of
Session, stated: “The assessment of need… comes first. The
assessment of means… comes afterwards.”

The judges ruled that Fife was wrong to take the woman’s
capital, including the notional capital from her transferred
property, into account when they were assessing her needs.

Anne McGovern, deputy leader of Fife Council, said the judgement
could have far-reaching implications and ultimately reduce the
level of services local authorities could afford to provide to
older people. She added: “We now have to consider this very complex
judgement in detail, along with other councils and the Scottish
executive, before deciding what further course of action to

Ronnie McColl, social services spokesperson for the Convention
of Scottish Local Authorities, said: “Make no mistake, this could
prove extremely problematic and cost councils a great deal of

Human rights solicitor Bernadette Livesey added: “This ruling
destabilises the whole system not just in Scotland but it also
raises major questions in England, which has broadly the same
charging regime. The problem is that the judgement skates over the
thorny issue of notional capital.”

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