Lawyers Halt Closure Of School Road Respite Centre

Bristol City Council Agree To Postpone Decision On Closure Following Threat Of Judicial Review


Lawyers representing a disabled woman in Bristol whose life would be ‘turned upside down’ by the proposed closure of a respite centre she regularly attends have welcomed Bristol City Council’s decision to reconsider the needs of the community affected.

Bristol City Council revealed plans in November 2013 to close the School Road Respite Unit in Brislington, which currently supports more than 50 families in the area, by March 2015 as part of wider planned budget cuts.

This proposal was approved by the council in February 2014. Now after correspondence from law firm Irwin Mitchell, which was instructed to fight the closure on behalf of affected service users, the council has confirmed that it will delay its decision on the centre’s future.

AR is among a number of vulnerable people whose would have faced a very distressing upheaval if the plans come into force, as she attends the council-run unit, which also takes children and adults with learning difficulties on short breaks, for at least 40 nights a year for the past 12 years.

Her family believe that AR would not adapt well to a new respite centre as she has loved attending School Road where her respite care is planned to coincide with her friends of many years.

Irwin Mitchell’s specialist Public Law team were instructed by AR’s sister and litigation friend to proceed with a challenge against the planned closure on a number of grounds, including concerns that the consultation regarding the decision was unlawful and that the needs of those affected were not properly assessed.

Now, after communication with the legal experts, the council has confirmed that it is delaying a decision on the future of the centre until February 2015 and stated that a decision will not be made until the needs of the community are properly assessed to ensure everyone can access the support they need.

Fiona McGhie is the specialist public lawyer at Irwin Mitchell’s Bristol office who is representing the clients in the case.

Expert Opinion
After carefully considering the facts in this case, we developed significant concerns regarding the decisions in this case and how they were ultimately made.

"Our client’s family are understandably very distressed regarding this issue and what closure of School Road could mean for her and the other disabled people who use it regularly. Respite is so important to families to enable them to carry on providing care to loved ones.

"However, the council’s latest correspondence has seen the local authority ultimately accept it cannot make a final decision on this planned closure until the needs of all of the individuals affected are properly assessed.

"This is hugely important, as it means that not only will their requirements be taken into account, but if their needs cannot be realistically met elsewhere the closure of the School Road Respite Unit will not be able to go ahead.

"We will now be closely following the actions of the council across the coming months and hope that any decision made properly takes into account the needs of all of those affected."
Fiona McGhie, Solicitor