Lawyers Locked In ‘Postcode Lottery’ Care Battle Back Minimum Threshold Proposals

Experts Fighting For Severely Disabled People ‘Denied Vital Care’


Public law experts representing four disabled people who are denied vital care due to a controversial adult social care policy used by West Berkshire Council have welcomed new government proposals which would bring an end to such injustice for good.

In its new Care and Support White Paper, the Government has outlined plans to establish a national minimum eligibility threshold by 2015 which will ensure the most vulnerable members of society, with needs defined as ‘substantial’ or ‘critical’, are able to access vital support services.

Health Secretary Andrew Lansley has claimed that the current system, which allows councils to determine the level of needs they must provide for, creates a ‘confusing and unclear’ postcode lottery which means the services people benefit from can vary depending on where they live.

As the new White Paper makes its way through Government, Irwin Mitchell’s specialist Public Law team are representing four vulnerable adults who have missed out on vital care because of West Berkshire Council’s use of a ‘critical-only’ policy.

Wokingham and Northumberland Councils are the only other local authorities along with West Berkshire to implement measures that mean only those with needs classed as critical can access care services. Like the Government’s plans, a successful challenge would prevent any authority from adopting such a policy again.

Irwin Mitchell’s public law specialists have also successfully challenged Birmingham City Council and Isle of Wight Council over their attempts to adopt a ‘critical only’ policy.

Anne-Marie Irwin, a public law specialist at Irwin Mitchell’s London office who is acting on behalf of the clients in West Berkshire, said: “The Government’s proposals are a huge step forward for social care which will guarantee that many vulnerable people and their families who are so reliant on statutory care and support will be able to gain access to the help they need.

“West Berkshire’s ‘critical-only’ policy is an example of why the proposals put forward by the Government are so desperately needed.

“This is because such frameworks mean that some of the most vulnerable members of society are left in a position where the care they are entitled to is wholly dependent on where they live – a postcode lottery which creates serious inequalities for potentially thousands of people.

“A national minimum threshold will bring an end to this problem and ensure that, regardless of where they live, the most vulnerable people in society are given the help they need to get the most from life.

“On behalf of our clients, we have now launched an appeal to continue our client’s legal battle over West Berkshire’s restrictive care policy. It is vital that these people’s voices are heard.”

In the case against West Berkshire Council, Irwin Mitchell argued on behalf of their clients that a ‘critical-only’ care policy is in breach of Section 2 of the Chronically Sick and Disabled Persons Act 1970. The firm is representing four clients who cannot be named for legal reasons and are all affected by this issue.

Among them are siblings Z and F, who both live with severe learning disabilities; both of them need around-the-clock support.

Anne-Marie Irwin added: “Having seen the impact of this kind of policy and how it deprives those who are more than deserving of care, we are absolutely determined to help our clients and ultimately many others to get access to the support they need.

“The battle will continue and we are not going to give up on this without a fight.”

Mark Goldring, Mencap’s chief executive, said: “Many people with a learning disability are losing out on vital care and support because of restrictive adult social care policies.

“The impact of West Berkshire's policy is highly detrimental, as, without this support, people with a learning disability face a real struggle to live full, independent and safe lives, and an ever greater strain is placed on family carers.”