Severely Disabled Man Brings Challenge To Prevent Cuts To Vital Service
The High Court in Manchester has ordered Salford City Council to continue providing a specialist transport service for disabled people which was due to be withdrawn from today [29 August], after lawyers representing a man who uses the service asked for a judicial review into plans to cut the service.
Irwin Mitchell’s Public Law team is acting for Michael Robson, from Swinton, a disabled man who requires around-the-clock care due to cerebral palsy and epilepsy and who attends day centres in Stockport and Salford for vital support.
However, Salford City Council (SCC) last month confirmed a decision which would see the wheelchair-adapted bus service used by Michael to attend the St George’s Day Centre in Salford two days a week withdrawn from the end of this month.
Now, after Irwin Mitchell applied for a judicial review to be held into the decision, the Court ordered the Council to continue the service in the short term until a court hearing on September 4th – when the Court will again be asked to extend the order.
The legal specialists are arguing that the council failed to carry out appropriate assessments of those affected, failed to undertake a lawful consultation into the step and also breached its duties as a local authority under the Equality Act 2010.
Expert OpinionMany vulnerable members of society are reliant on the services offered by day centres to ensure their care needs are met, but a huge number also understandably require the means to get to and from such facilities.
"We believe that Salford City Council’s decision to withdraw this vital bus service used by our client and many others has been made without proper assessments being carried out of people’s care needs and without a lawful consultation being undertaken, as well as without proper regard for its responsibilities in terms of equality legislation.
"Despite our request for the decision to be withdrawn and the transport to remain in place pending a further consultation, we were left with little choice but to apply for a judicial review to ensure the issue is given the attention that it clearly requires.
"If this decision is left to stand it will mean that our client and many others will simply be left in the lurch, unable to access to the care and support they need in order to get the best from life." Mathieu Culverhouse - Partner
Mr Robson, 31, attends the SK30+ day centre in Stockport three days a week, with his attendance funded by SCC and his transport funded via direct payments for taxis. Twice a week, he attends St Georges Day Centre in Salford, with attendance and public transport funded by SCC. However, under the terms of a decision made in July, SCC confirmed plans to withdraw the transport service for the latter from 29 August.
Michael’s mother Mary Robson, 59, who cares for him, said: “We pleased that the court has made this initial order, but we are really worried about what will happen if the Council’s decision is allowed to stand. These proposed changes have caused so much stress to both of us. It feels like our circumstances have just not been taken into account at all and the council has also failed to carry out an assessment as to how this will change my son’s care plan.
“It has been suggested that Michael could take a taxi to and from the Day Centre, but, putting aside the practical difficulties of getting Michael’s wheelchair into a taxi, we simply cannot afford this.
“I am extremely concerned about the prospect of losing this service because the practical result of this will be that Michael will simply have to stop attending the day centre, which he loves and which he attends in order to meet his assessed community care needs.”
On behalf of Mr Robson, Irwin Mitchell is challenging the decision on the following grounds:
Failure to assess
Families, including Michael’s, have reported that they were not asked if they were willing and able to provide transport to and from the day centres and it was simply assumed that they would step in to provide this service. The legal team believe that the council has therefore failed to carry out the necessary assessments of people’s care needs and how they can be met.
The legal team believe that SCC has failed to put forward sufficient reasons for the proposal to ensure proper consideration, with detail on the website failing to make it clear that the plans mean the complete withdrawal of the service.
Breach of equality duty
Under the terms of Section 149 of the Equality Act, the legal team believe the council failed to meet its responsibilities.
Specific concerns include the Council’s failure to gather the information it needed in order to assess the impact of the decision on disabled people.