High Court Grants Permission For Challenge Against Rotherham Metropolitan Borough Council
Lawyers acting for a disabled adult have been given the green light to pursue their legal challenge against Rotherham Metropolitan Borough Council’s decision to close a day centre that cares for adults with learning disabilities.
The adult is known only as AA as they cannot be named for legal reasons and has been attending the Oaks Day Centre for five days a week for over eight years.
The council announced it intended the close the centre, along with another centre and two respite centres in the area, in May this year. The other centre is Addison at Maltby, while Treefield in Wingfield and Quarryhill at Wath upon Dearne are the respite centres earmarked for closure.
The closures were made as part of a £4.2million savings package. Disabled adults who used the centres were told by the local authority to use direct payments to set up their own activities. The council suggested traditional services did not offer enough independence for those with learning disabilities and autism.
AA and her mother, BB, instructed Public Law specialists at Irwin Mitchell to challenge the council’s decision to close the Oaks Day Centre.
Now, the High Court has confirmed that there were arguable grounds and the legal action, can proceed with a full hearing to take place early in 2019.
Rebecca Chapman, the Public Law specialist at Irwin Mitchell representing AA, said:
Expert Opinion“Oaks Day Centre provides a vital public service for both those with learning difficulties that use the service and their families.
“Our client and many other local people believe that the local authority is trying to impose a radical change in services for people with learning difficulties in the name of enhancing their subjectivity and right to choose how they receive the care they need.
“AA’s own care plan acknowledges that routine is essential and she does not like going to places where she does not know people and places that she doesn’t recognise. This change will have a massive impact on the life of AA, and other service users.” Rebecca Chapman - Associate Solicitor
The council held a 12 week consultation, which it is argued did not comply with the requirements for lawful consultation and was unfair.
The consultation found that 96% of customers wanted the day care centre to remain open, 93% of carers wanted it to stay open, 87% of staff wanted it to stay open, and 84% of the public wanted it to stay open. Over 70,000 people signed a petition opposing the closures.
Monica Hudson, a mother of another Day Centre user, said: “We are happy that the legal challenge will be fully heard by the court.
“The council’s plans have caused a lot of anxiety and stress for us and other families that use the services provided at the Day Centres, and the others marked for closure in the area.
“The staff have been fantastic providing the best possible care, and the parents I speak to are extremely happy with the care their daughters and sons receive at the Day Centres.
“A lot of the disabled people who use the Day Centres do not like the unknown, and familiarity and routine is key to their health. If Oaks and Addison closed, the change would have a negative impact on those who are affected.”