A severely disabled man has lost a High Court challenge over cuts to his care package he claimed breached the Care Act.
Luke Davey, 40, brought a judicial review on the grounds Oxfordshire council’s decision to reduce his weekly personal budget by 42% was unlawful as it posed a direct risk to his wellbeing.
Justice Morris dismissed the case, saying it was understandable Davey and his family had objected to the cut but there was no “relevant legal error” in the council’s actions.
He said: “The result may impose change or even strictures upon the claimant which are unwelcome, but that does not of themselves mean that the process has been unlawful.”
‘Risk to wellbeing’
Davey has quadriplegic cerebral palsy and is wheelchair dependent. He requires assistance with all of his personal care needs and has been supported by a stable team of personal assistants for nearly 20 years.
He received a care package costing £1,651 per week, including a contribution of £730 through the Independent Living Fund (ILF). However, after the ILF closed in June 2015 Oxfordshire council proposed reducing his personal budget to £950 per week.
Davey said the proposed personal budget would not meet his needs and told the court that two of the council’s reasons for making the cut posed a risk to his wellbeing.
The first was that he could spend more time alone without the benefit of a personal assistant. Davey said this would cause him anxiety. The second was that he could reduce the rate of pay, and the terms and conditions, of his personal assistants. Davey said this risked losing his established care team of 18 years.
He argued that the changes would be in breach of the council’s duties under the Care Act 2014, including the section 1 requirement to promote a person’s wellbeing when making decisions about their care.
He also argued the cuts were “Wednesbury unreasonable” – a reference to a landmark court ruling seen as setting a standard for unreasonableness in public-body decisions.
‘Independence and anxiety’
The council accepted Davey had experienced anxiety when left alone in the past. However, his social worker said she had assessed that Davey’s need, and the best way to reduce that anxiety, was to develop greater independence rather than a need to never spend time alone.
Justice Morris acknowledged that Davey had suffered “serious anxiety and panic attacks” when left alone in the past, but he was satisfied the council had considered the risk to his psychological wellbeing. He concluded the council met its duty under section 1 of the Care Act and that the social worker’s assessment could not be “Wednesbury” unreasonable as this was a matter for her professional judgement.
On the risk of Davey losing his established care team due to him having to cut pay and conditions for them, Justice Morris found that the council met its section 1 duty to “have regard” to all of the individual’s circumstances.
He found the council had “consistently recorded” that it was important to Davey to retain his existing care team. He added that there was “no sufficient evidence” that the changes in pay and conditions had, or would, result in the break-up of that team.
The case is believed to be the first legal challenge dealing with the Care Act’s wellbeing principle. Prior Care Act-related challenges heard by the courts concerned advocacy provision.
Read the full judgement here.