Judge overturns council plan to raise eligibility to critical

Birmingham Council's plan to raise eligibility thresholds to critical has been overturned after a judge ruled it unlawful.

Birmingham Council’s plan to raise eligibility thresholds to critical has been overturned after a judge ruled it unlawful.

Four disabled residents had their concerns over the legality of the city’s service cutbacks upheld by a High Court judge.

The ruling declared that Birmingham’s proposal to raise criteria from substantial was unlawful because the council had failed to pay due regard to the impact on disabled people during the decision-making process, contravening the Disability Discrimination Act.

However Birmingham said the “generality” of its budget was not affected and would study the full judgment in detail when it is handed down next month.

Mr Justice Walker declared by interim judgement that the council now needs to review the setting of its adult social care budget.

Lawyers acting for one of the claimants – a 65-year-old woman with severe learning disabilities called Ms A – said the case potentially sets a precedent.

Polly Sweeney, solicitor at the Birmingham office of Irwin Mitchell, said: “This case has national significance. Proposals to cut mandatory duties and tighten eligibility for social care are the major issues in the social care sector. This is about saving front line services for vulnerable and disabled people. It is a very significant outcome and with Birmingham City Council being the UK’s largest local authority; it’s very likely that the result will set a precedent for other cases. Other councils up and down the country seeking to target vulnerable groups through cost-cutting drives may be legally challenged.”

Birmingham launched its consultation exercise as part of city-wide plans aimed at reducing the amount of money it spends on adult social care.

It was thought that up to 5,000 disabled people in Birmingham would have been denied all or parts of their social care packages currently provided by the council under the plans.

A spokesman said: “Birmingham City Council will be looking at this judgement in detail and will make a decision on whether to lodge an appeal. The generality of the budget is not affected, this is a decision about the eligibility criteria for adult social care.

“Like all councils, Birmingham faces a huge financial challenge, with adults and communities having to make a share of the savings like all other directorates, and we need to assess the impact of this decision.”

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