A teenager with learning disabilities and his family have launched legal action in the High Court against Worcester County Council's proposed changes to its social care policy.
The teenager, known only as D, is challenging the council’s policy to impose a ‘maximum expenditure’ cap on adult care budgets so that if the cost of living in the community is more expensive than living in residential care, the individual will either have to make up the difference themselves, or be left with no choice but to go into residential care.
The policy was approved by the Council Cabinet on November 8, 2012 following a consultation that was criticised for being unclear and not providing sufficient information about the proposals. The policy affects all adults with disabilities in the region.
However, law firm Irwin Mitchell said the council had failed to undertake a lawful consultation when deciding on its maximum expenditure policy and that in the process of approving it, the council failed to have due regard to its duties under the Equality Act. It is now applying to take the matter to a Judicial Review after the council refused to consult again or review their decision on the policy.
D is 16 years old and lives at the family home in Worcestershire with his parents. He has been diagnosed with a moderate learning disability, epilepsy and ADHD, and has autistic traits and challenging behaviour.
He will soon be accessing adult social care services and will be directly affected by these proposals. His family want him to be able to live independently in future like other young people his age, but to do this he will need social care support from the local authority due to his complex needs. If the costs of a care package are higher than the new ‘maximum cap’ then he may be forced into residential care as he will not be able to cover the extra cost himself.
Polly Sweeney, a public law specialist at Irwin Mitchell, represents the family. She said: “The policy which the council has introduced is likely to have a significant impact on the ability of many disabled people within the region to live an independent life in the community.
“We have real concerns that the process by which the Council took this decision is seriously flawed and, as a result, the needs of disabled people have not been properly considered. 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.
“D’s family are determined to take action, not just for themselves but to help others who may also be affected.
“If the Council’s policy remains unchallenged, the costs of such a care package in the community may well be more than the costs of residential care. This would mean that D would be forced into institutional care whilst his non-disabled peers are able to continue living in the community. It is cases such as this which we are concerned that the council has not properly considered through his consultation and decision making process. Whilst 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.”
A spokesperson for Worcestershire County Council, said: “It would be inappropriate to comment at this time due to the imminent legal proceedings.”