Judge overturns direct payment restrictions

The choice agenda received a boost last week after a High Court judge overturned a decision limiting the use of direct payments.

Last July, Suffolk Council ordered that a disabled girl’s direct payments could not be put towards the cost of her specialist boarding school fees, insisting instead that she attend a local school and use her direct payments to pay for care at her home in accordance with her care plan.

However, her father said he had been unable to find adequate care locally to cope with the girl’s challenging behaviour, and that the boarding school would provide care which could not be provided at home.

Overturning the council’s decision, Mr Justice Charles said that Suffolk Council had misinterpreted the rules over direct payments. “When needs have been identified, and the child assessed as requiring assistance, the parents should be given the choice as to how that should be provided,” he added.

Describing the case as complex, a spokesperson for the council said: “Our policy – entirely in line with national policy – is to educate children in their local school with appropriate support, wherever possible.

“We will work with the family to implement the decision of the court and to find the best solution for the young person involved.”

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