Legal challenge to council cap on social care packages fails

Worcestershire Council set to implement policy of limiting expenditure on community care for disabled adults, after court rejects judicial review challenge.

A council is set to introduce a policy that critics warn will force disabled adults into residential care, after a legal challenge against it failed.

Following a judicial review, the High Court rejected the challenge to Worcestershire Council’s “maximum expenditure policy”, which would set a limit on the amount the council will spend on supporting a disabled adult in the community equivalent to the cost of meeting their eligible needs in a care home.

The case was brought on behalf of D, a 17-year-old man with a moderate learning disability and epilepsy, whose mother feared that he would be forced into residential care as a result of the policy.

Lawyers for D argued that Worcestershire’s consultation on the policy had been defective in so far as it failed to give respondents sufficient information about its consequences. They claimed that the consultation paper should have spelt out that people whose eligible needs were more expensive to meet in the community, rather than in residential care, would be faced with the choice of staying at home with insufficient support or moving into a care home. Instead, the council said that no one would be forced into residential care as a result of the policy alone.

However, the judge, Mr Justice Hickinbottom, disagreed that the policy would provide people with the choice of moving into residential care or receiving inadequate support at home. There would be ways that could be found for people facing a reduction in their care funding as a result of the policy to have their eligible needs met at home more cheaply, he said.

The judge also rejected the second ground of the challenge: that in implementing the policy, the council was failing in its duty to have due regard to the need to eliminate discrimination against and promote equality of opportunity for disabled people, under the Equality Act 2010. Lawyers for D argued that the council’s cabinet members, who took the decision to go ahead with the policy, were not given sufficient information about its consequences for service users to effectively fulfil their duty to promote equality for disabled people.

However, the judge concluded that cabinet members received “considerable amounts of information” about how service users may be adversely affected by the policy and how such effects might be addressed.

The law firm that represented D, Irwin Mitchell, said it was disappointed by the decision. “It is now over to the council to prove that this policy will not in practice have the impact that we fear it will have,” said Polly Sweeney, the solicitor who brought the challenge. “We will be watching carefully over the coming months as to how the Council is implementing this policy to ensure that their assurances given during the course of this case are adhered to.”

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