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Birmingham Council Chiefs Lose Legal Challenge On Adult Social Care Cuts

Case Could Open The Door To Similar Cases Across The UK


Four disabled residents from the West Midlands have won a landmark legal challenge against Birmingham City Council after a court ruled the authority’s plans to cut its adult social care budget were unlawful. 

The case was brought by the families of four disabled adults from Birmingham who were told earlier this year by the Council that as from 1 April 2011, any needs which were not considered ‘critical’ would no longer be paid for, leaving them concerned that many of their essential care and support needs unmet.

The successful application for a judicial review will now mean that Birmingham City Council will be forced to make a new decision. It is open to the Council now to retake it’s decision and continue providing services for those with ‘critical’ and ‘substantial’ needs in the meantime. The council will need to find the funds within the budget already set to continue to fund for the ‘substantial’ care needs of disabled and older people.

Mr Justice Walker declared the Birmingham City Council’s budget unlawful in respect to adult social care. He has declared by interim judgement that the Council now needs to review the setting of its adult social care budget. The full judgement will be handed down on the second week in May 2011.

Polly Sweeney, Solicitor at the Birmingham office of Irwin Mitchell who acted on behalf of Ms A, a 65 year old lady with severe learning disabilities, said: “We are delighted with the Court’s decision and very relieved. These individuals and families rely heavily on this care and it would have represented a huge backward step if the funding was removed.

“This case has national significance. Proposals to cut mandatory duties and tighten eligibility for social care are the major issues in the social care sector. This is about saving front line services for vulnerable and disabled people. It is a very significant outcome and with Birmingham City Council being the UK’s largest local authority; it’s very likely that the result will set a precedent for other cases. Other councils up and down the country seeking to target vulnerable groups through cost-cutting drives may be legally challenged.”

Birmingham City Council launched the consultation exercise as part of city-wide plans aimed at reducing the amount of money it spends on adult social care. The consultation ended on 2 March 2011 and the plans were approved by the Council at two separate meetings on 1 and 14 March 2011.

It was thought that up to 5,000 disabled people in Birmingham would have been denied all or parts of their social care packages currently provided by the Council under the plans.

The case was fought on the grounds that the Council’s proposals did not promote equality under the Disability Discrimination Act 1995. It was also argued that the consultation process failed to meet legal requirements in a number of areas – particularly its lack of clarity in relation to which groups will be affected, and what the options for those people who will have their care package removed are.

Note to Editors: 

Further information on the mandatory duties of the council, the nature of social care and the funding settlement can be provided upon request.