Readers’ letters to Community Care, 4 June 2009

Fees legal challenge is a mistake

I read with some interest the proposal to consider judicial review of all social services authorities who do not respond favourably to the Fairer Fee Forum’s overtures ( News, p6, 14 May).

The history of challenges in this area does not bode well for the FFF. Eleven years ago a Coventry consortium of care home owners ran into the sand with a challenge on the grounds that fee levels were not subject to judicial review because they were not matters of public law but highly contested private law matters of contract.

Subsequently a collateral challenge to fee levels in Birmingham using the choice directives similarly failed. In another case the Office of Fair Trading declined to look at the issue on the basis that care homes were not obliged to accept the rate local authorities are prepared to pay. Arguments relying on anti-competitive practices or restraint of trade, including European law, have all met the same response.

If the FFF feels it can hide behind a constitution of anonymity to preserve its relationship with the local authorities it is challenging, the promoters would do well to consider what happened in the Neil Hamilton case. Hamilton’s backers were identified and pursued to contribute towards the cost of the failed case against the Harrods’ owner.

Were the court, in the highly unlikely event, to find in the forum’s favour the case would almost certainly go to the Court of Appeal or beyond as the public policy implications would drive a coach and horses through the local matrix, under which the government contains the total public spending on social care.

Association of Directors of Adult Social Services members would be making a beeline for the Treasury to demand greater resources by way of grant to meet the increased costs that had been dictated by a court ruling. I think the forum is considering using the wrong forum. Judicial review is not the way to settle the cost pressures in the social care economy.

Simon Bull, solicitor and CQSW


Case for Cafcass’s core contribution

Kate Lovell is wrong to say that Cafcass does not contribute to serious case reviews (Letters, 21 May). We gave no such inference in the original article, which was about whether or not the judicial process should be covered by the serious case review process.

Cafcass has been contributing to serious case reviews since becoming core members of area child protection committees, way back in 2001. Our reports and interventions can be subject to scrutiny as part of a serious case review if requested by the local safeguarding children board.

While we work closely and effectively with the vast majority of LSCBs, on five occasions in the past six months individual LSCB’s did not notify Cafcass about a case with which we had had involvement. To avoid delay and, importantly, to learn lessons together through joint reflection and then make changes through a shared commitment to action planning, requires that all core member agencies are notified of possible involvement from the outset.

Elizabeth Hall, head of safeguarding, Cafcass



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