Learning Disability Today
Supporting professionals working in learning disability and autism services

High Court orders council to provide additional support to girl with complex needs

A High Court judge has ordered Bury Council to provide additional support to a seven-year-old girl who is disabled and requires specialist assistance for her complex needs.

The decision comes following a needs assessment in August 2023 in which Bury Council announced that it would not fund the cost of the child’s attendance at a specialist respite facility that she attended four times a week.

Instead, the local authority concluded that the child’s needs could be met with just four hours of support a week.

The child’s mum said the lack of respite care was “extremely stressful for the whole family”, and the need to cover increased costs has been “a huge concern”.

A victory for all those who support young people with complex needs

As a result, the family instructed human rights lawyers at Irwin Mitchell to launch a legal challenge against this decision.

The family argued that the needs assessment was unlawful because Bury Council had not complied with its legal duties in respect of helping to provide essential support.

Eliza Sharron, of 39 Essex Chambers, represented the child in the judicial review proceedings. The court granted an interim relief order which provided significantly more respite support for the family’s daughter. There will now be a full hearing in which the court will consider whether the child’s level of respite care and school holiday support is adequate.

Mathieu Culverhouse, a human rights lawyer at Irwin Mitchell supporting the family, said: “The news that the family will now receive an adequate level of support ahead of the judicial review is a victory for them, their daughter and the wider community, of those who support young people living with disability.

“The child involved has very complex needs and the support provided to her by respite services and during school holidays is a vital component of her and the family’s wellbeing.

“With mounting debt, the family felt they had no choice but to challenge the council, not just for their own sake, but for other families who rely on such services as a lifeline.”

Respite care a ‘lifeline’ for the family

The child’s mother says respite care is an “absolute lifeline” for the family, and she has welcomed the decision for a full hearing.

She said: “Our daughter is a wonderful little girl but she has complex and specific needs and while we are happy to do this work ourselves so she has a full family life, we do need help. The respite care is an absolute lifeline. I simply don’t know where we would be without it, so it’s a huge relief its importance was recognised and that the costs will be covered for now.

“School holidays are a stressful time for us, as we can’t source the same levels of respite during this period and it always leaves us stretched. It was important to see that the court also agreed that this needed to be looked at as part of the needs assessment.

“Our daughter’s best interests should be at the heart of the assessment and we hope that the outcome will now be positive, for us and for other families who rely on this essential support to care for their children.”

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