Mum Wins Fight For Justice Over Council’s Planned Cuts To Care Funding For Son

Call For Answers Over Bournemouth Borough Council Proposals

24.05.2012


A MUM who has won her legal fight to retain the 24-hour care package for her profoundly disabled son with his current care team is now demanding an inquiry as to how her local council could try and cut funding in the first place.

The call from Lorraine Zavadil, from Bournemouth comes after she successfully challenged a decision by Bournemouth Borough Council to reduce the payments for the care of her son Tarik, 27, who has congenital cerebral palsy, epilepsy and profound learning disabilities, is registered blind and is unable to speak.

The case, brought by public law specialists at leading national law firm Irwin Mitchell, has now been settled out-of-court by the local authority, meaning Tarik – who experts say has to have a close relationship with his carers – can continue to receive funding for the round-the-clock care he needs.
 
For 8 years, Tarik lived in his own bungalow helped by his mother and three other members of a care team who provided him with 24-hour care support every day, paid for by the council.

But at the end of 2010, the council told Ms Zavadil that Tarik’s care funding would be cut; and provided a provisional figure that would have seen the funding for his care package reduce by almost 70%, meaning he would no longer be able to keep his care team, some of whom have worked with him for over 10 years. Tarik’s case was then taken to a funding panel in March 2011 who reviewed the provisional figure and approved a funding cut which still would have seen Tarik lose more than 50% of the funding for his care.

With the help of her legal team at Irwin Mitchell, Ms Zavadil began a fight to preserve Tarik’s support arrangements, fearing that the reduced level of care funding would not meet his complex care needs and leave him at significant risk of harm, a stance backed by expert witnesses.

And, after an 18-month battle, which involved the council making further offers of cuts at 45% and 30% - both of which Ms Zavadil resisted as she believed they would place her son at risk of harm - the Council have now finally agreed with Ms Zavadil a new offer of funding which will enable Tarik to continue to fund his round-the-clock care with his current care team.

 Solicitor Polly Sweeney from Irwin Mitchell’s public law team, who represented Tarik, said: “Ms Zavadil is obviously pleased that we have finally been able to agree with the Council an amount of funding which will be sufficient to maintain Tarik’s existing care arrangements, which are absolutely vital to giving him the best possible quality of life. Ms Zavadil understands the difficult financial pressures which the Council face and has remained willing throughout this time to try and work with the Council to find a way in which Tarik’s care package could be delivered for less money.

“However, it remains of significant concern that a funding panel within a Council can sign off on such significant cuts to an individual’s care package when the impact has the potential to have such devastating results on someone’s quality of life.

“This case shows that councils cannot make changes to something as important as an individual’s care arrangements without first carrying out a detailed assessment of their needs. Every disabled person is an individual and must be treated as such to ensure their care needs are met and well-being looked after.

“This has been an emotional time for Tarik’s and his mother and, although they are relieved that he will continue to receive the care he needs, they remain frustrated that they have had to go through the anxiety of facing these cuts in the first place.”

Lawyers at Irwin Mitchell argued that the council’s decision making was unlawful as it failed to assess Tarik’s needs and that it also breached his human rights. The Council did not accept the decision was unlawful but they agreed to carry out a re-assessment. Following discussions between Tarik’s legal team and the Council, they have now agreed that they will implement a reduction of just 14%, compared to the provisional cut of almost 70%.

An independent report from a clinical psychologist also showed that changes to Tarik’s care arrangements could potentially have had serious psychological and emotional consequences for him, potentially worsening his disability or leading to him harming himself.

Ms Zavadil said: “The most important thing in this case has always been Tarik. His quality of life depends on the consistency of his care and he has built up a close relationship with his team over a number of years. “We were lucky to have the support of specialist lawyers.

“It was a devastating blow when we were first told that his social care funding would be cut. The last 18 months while we were battling to preserve his care has been a very emotional time for us all.”

She added: “I’m relieved that the council have finally accepted the arguments we have put to them for a number of months now but they still haven’t explained properly how they came to this decision, with all the worry it has caused us, and I would like to see a full inquiry carried out now by the authority to ensure they learn from this and that no other family has to endure the worry and anxiety that we have endured.