Legal challenge over council's care cap

By Ian Dipple Thursday 27 December 2012 Updated: 28/12 10:24

A TEENAGER and his family are launching a legal challenge against a 'draconian' new policy introduced by Worcestershire County Council which may force him into a care home.

The council ruled in November it was imposing a maximum expenditure policy which would cap the amount of money it spends on new applications for adult social care packages as well as for existing users whose needs have to be reassessed.

The plan was part of efforts to save £500,000 over the next four years from the council's budget.

But it was blasted by disabled groups who said sick and disabled people would be forced into institutions if the capped figure did not meet their needs to allow them to live independently at home and they could not provide the extra funding themselves.

The original consultation was also criticised for being unclear and not providing enough information about the proposals.

The claimant - referred to only as D and who is 16-years-old, has a moderate learning disability, epilepsy, ADHD, autistic traits and challenging behaviour - will soon be assessed for the first time and will be directly affected by the proposals.

The family want him to remain at their home in the county but fear due to his complex needs the cost of his care may be higher than the 'maximum cap' and he will be forced into a care home.

D's mother has recently been treated for cancer and wants to ensure appropriate arrangements are made for her son's future in the event anything should happen to her. The hope is he will be able to move into a supported living tenancy in the community but he will need 24 hour support.

Law firm Irwin Mitchell has already written to the council asking them to undertake a new consultation and equality impact assessment to ensure the full impact of the decision had been properly considered. But bosses have refused, which means the policy will now be challenged by D and his family in the courts through a judicial review.

Polly Sweeney, a public law specialist at Irwin Mitchell and representing the family, said the council's original consultation was unlawful and by approving the policy it had failed to have due regard to its duties under the Equality Act.

"We are particularly worried about how young people going through transition will be affected by the policy, or individuals who may have suffered a significant change in their circumstances, such as those who may have suffered a brain injury and so will need to access support from the council for the first time," she said.

"While the council have said that they will consider exceptions to their policy, none of the examples they have given would apply to D or others in his situation."

D's mother added she was worried about what would happen to her son in the future.

"Not everyone wants, or needs, to live in full time residential care but many will be left with no choice under the current policy due to having to meet some of the costs themselves," she said.

A spokesman for the county council said: "It would be inappropriate to comment at this time due to the imminent legal proceedings."

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