Lawyers Also Granted Permission To Proceed to Full Hearing Of High Court Challenge
Bury Council has been ordered to provide additional support by a High Court judge after her family launched legal proceedings against the local authority. At the hearing the judge, Mr Justice Fordham, also granted permission to proceed to a full hearing in the High Court over concerns that the Council was not meeting its duties to meet the needs of their disabled daughter.
The family has care in place for their seven-year-old daughter, who is disabled and requires specialist assistance for her complex needs. This includes respite support during the week and over the school holidays.
Following a needs assessment by Bury Council in August, the local authority concluded that the child’s needs could be met with 4 hours of support per week, and that the local authority would not fund the cost of the child’s attendance at Special Spirits, a specialist respite facility that the child attends four times a week, described as a ‘life-line’ for the family. The Council’s assessment failed to address the issue of assistance during the school holidays.
The family, which cannot be named for legal reasons, instructed specialist public law and human rights lawyers at Irwin Mitchell to launch a legal challenge against the decision.
The family argued that the needs assessment was unlawful because Bury Council had not complied with its legal duties in respect of helping to provide essential support.
Lawyers at Irwin Mitchell wrote to the council, urging it to reconsider or face judicial review in the High Court. Irwin Mitchell instructed barrister Eliza Sharron, of 39 Essex Chambers, to represent the child in the judicial review proceedings. The court granted an interim relief order which provided significantly more respite support for the family’s daughter.
The judge also granted permission for the judicial review case to proceed to a full hearing, at which the court will consider the issues of the child’s respite care and school holiday support.
The family has welcomed the decision, which it says is vital in funding their daughter’s essential care. They believe the decision will offer hope to other families struggling to ensure children with disabilities receive the necessary support they need to live full and rewarding lives.
Expert Opinion“The news that the family will now receive an adequate level of support ahead of the judicial review is a victory for them, their daughter and the wider community, of those who support young people living with disability.
“The child involved has very complex needs and the support provided to her by respite services and during school holidays is a vital component of her and the family’s wellbeing.
“We’re pleased that the court recognised the issues raised with the child’s needs assessment and has agreed a judicial review to fully examine whether this decision is appropriate. With mounting debt, the family felt they had no choice but to challenge the council, not just for their own sake, but for other families who rely on such services as a lifeline.” Mathieu Culverhouse - Partner
The child has a number of conditions including epilepsy and a neurological condition. She is largely non-verbal.
The child’s mum said: “The last few months have been extremely stressful for the whole family and the need to cover the increased costs of our daughter’s respite care has been a huge concern. We’ve argued this and school holiday provision should have been covered in the needs assessment and it was good to hear the judge say as much.
“The judge agreed that the council should have grasped the nettle over these issues and at least we now have the relief that this is settled for now while we await the review.
“Our daughter is a wonderful little girl but she has complex and specific needs and while we are happy to do this work ourselves so she has a full family life, we do need help. The respite care is an absolute lifeline. I simply don’t know where we would be without it, so it’s a huge relief its importance was recognised and that the costs will be covered for now.
“School holidays are a stressful time for us, as we can’t source the same levels of respite during this period and it always leaves us stretched. It was important to see that the court also agreed that this needed to be looked at as part of the needs assessment.
“Our daughter’s best interests should be at the heart of the assessment and we hope that the outcome will now be positive, for us and for other families who rely on this essential support to care for their children.”