A judge has quashed a council’s decision to terminate a specialist residential care placement for a man with autism and severe learning disabilities.
In a ruling published this week, Deputy High Court judge Anne Whyte QC found Merton council’s plan to move the “very vulnerable” 24-year-old to a cheaper placement was based on a Care Act needs assessment that was “not lawful”.
The man, JF, cannot communicate verbally and requires a high level of constant and specialist care. Since 2012 he has lived at the David Lewis College, a specialist service in Cheshire, where he receives on-site support from a multi-disciplinary team including speech therapists, physios and occupational therapists.
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The council has funded this on-site care for 15 years. But last year it proposed moving JF to a service in Sussex where this would not be provided. In evidence, lawyers for the council said cheaper placement options were explored because the council deemed JF no longer needed this extra on-site support.
The judge found that the council had failed to justify that decision and its Care Act needs assessment failed to show JF’s need for the on-site team had been properly considered.
The man’s parents, who acted as his deputies and told the council the placement move posed a risk to his progress, had also made their opposition clear, the judge added.
She ruled the council had failed to comply with statutory duties under Care Act section 1 (to promote an individual’s wellbeing) and section 9 (assessment of an adult’s needs for care an support).
“Accordingly the assessment was not lawful. Any re-assessment of JF’s needs must be based on his current situation and not conducted (as I find it was) from the position that his placement is no longer available to him,” she said.
“It should be noted that this finding is entirely fact-specific in a case where there is a dispute about which decisions were actually made with virtually no evidence in support from the Defendant [the council] to assist the court one way or another.”
The council denied it had decided to terminate JF’s placement and claimed that the Sussex move had merely been an option “on the table”. But the judge rejected this. She said the council had “simply deferred the implementation of its decision” and it seemed “inevitable” that JF would have been moved if he had not launched a legal challenge.
The judge allowed JF’s claim and quashed the Care Act assessment. She also quashed the council’s decisions to terminate his placement and assess the Sussex unit as a suitable alternative. The council has been ordered to undertake a further assessment of JF’s needs in line with the Care Act.