Four disabled residents from Birmingham have won a landmark legal challenge against their local authority after a court ruled its plans to cut its adult social care budget were unlawful.
The case was brought after Birmingham City Council changed its eligibility criteria, meaning only those with ‘critical’ needs would be paid for. The 4 residents were told their services would no longer be paid for, which left them concerned that many of their essential care and support needs would remain unmet.
It was argued that the Council’s proposals did not promote equality under the Disability Discrimination Act 1995. It was also argued that the consultation process failed to meet legal requirements in a number of areas – particularly its lack of clarity in relation to which groups will be affected, and what the options for those people who will have their care package removed are.
The successful application for a judicial review will mean that Birmingham City Council will have to make a new decision, while providing services for those with ‘critical’ and ‘substantial’ needs in the meantime.
Birmingham City Council will need to find funds within its budget to fund the ‘substantial’ care needs of disabled and older people. The court has also told the authority that it needs to review the setting of its adult social care budget, with a final judgement from the court to be handed down in the second week of May.
Polly Sweeney, solicitor at the Birmingham office of Irwin Mitchell who acted on behalf of Ms A, a 65-year-old lady with severe learning disabilities, said: “We are delighted with the Court’s decision and very relieved. These individuals and families rely heavily on this care and it would have represented a huge backward step if the funding was removed. “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 frontline 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.”