Lytham St Anne’s Mum Asks Lawyers To Start Judicial Review
A High Court legal challenge has been launched over concerns that the Council’s county-wide short breaks service for disabled children is underfunded.
Lancashire County Council’s Lancashire Break Time service provides respite care for parents and carers of children and young people with special educational needs (SEND) and other disabilities by hosting activities for the youngsters. The service entails a fun group activity for youngsters while their parent or carer gets a short break, of at least two hours, from their caring role.
Before setting the annual budget for Lancashire Break Time, the council consulted with parents and providers to get their views. The consultation documents suggest that:
1.There has been an increase in demand for the Lancashire Break Time service;
2.Providers of the service had advised Lancashire County Council that current funding levels (1) do not support them to staff groups safely and provide 1:1 support when needed and (2) do not take into account inflation and minimum wage;
3.Parents and carers felt that the service was not sufficient to meet local need.
Despite the apparent increased use and concerns raised by providers, the local authority decided to set the annual budget for the service at £765,000; an amount akin to that which was spent the year previously.
Specialist public law and human rights experts at law firm Irwin Mitchell have been instructed by Miranda Hyman, whose children Logan and Leila Wilding benefit from the service. Miranda, of Lytham St Anne’s, is concerned that the budget is not sufficient to enable the service to recruit and retain staff with the expertise needed.
Furthermore, she believes the decision appears to be based on the proposed costs of a new version of the service, which has yet to be implemented. The legal experts argue that it is “irrational” due to the fact that the new version has not yet been put into effect, with the council still consulting about what the changes should be.
Irwin Mitchell, on behalf of the family, has now applied to the High Court for permission for a judicial review to overturn the funding decision.
Expert Opinion“Miranda, Logan and Leila are all extremely worried that the funding is not sufficient to adequately run the Lancashire Break Time service.
This decision will not just affect Miranda and her family but it will also affect hundreds of families across Lancashire who rely on this vital service. To many it’s the only social activity their children are involved in. Of course it’s also important for parents and carers to have a well-deserved break.
There are concerns that Lancashire County Council has failed to come to its decision lawfully because it has not considered what funding is needed to take into account the apparent increased usage. The worries that have been raised by providers, parents and carers that the current funding is not sufficient should also be taken into account.
We have now applied to the High Court for a judicial review to examine the decision making process. However, we call on the council to agree to make a new budget decision by working with affected families and providers to find a solution and end the worry and upset experienced by Miranda and no doubt other families across the county."
James Betts - Associate Solicitor
Twelve-year-old Logan and 10-year-old Leila Wilding are siblings who are heavily reliant on the Lancashire Break Time service.
Logan has severe dyspraxia, hyper mobility, weak muscles and joints, and difficulties with social communication. Leila has mild to moderate deafness, social communication difficulties, and is also being investigated in relation to suspected autism and Audio Processing Disorder.
The pair attend the Lancashire Break Time service known as Stars, which is run by Blackpool Football Club with Break Time funding, three to four days a week during school holidays.
Their mum Miranda Hyman said: “If it were not for this service, Logan would stay in his bedroom and not go out. He does not have any friends and does not socialise outside of attending the activities and outings provided by Lancashire Break Time.
“Those on the ground who run Stars are brilliant. The care and support they provide to all the families is second to none.
“However, the council’s decision to not increase the funding has left me worried that the funding available will not be sufficient to take on and keep staff with the skills needed to run the service.
“There will be many families in the same position as we are, that rely heavily on this service, and I hope that the council will listen to our concerns and reconsider the cuts to funding. There needs to be a solution that benefits everyone.”