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Supreme Court Rejects Former Ballerina’s Appeal For Basic Right - Care To Go To The Toilet

Age UK And Irwin Mitchell Comment On Decision


A former prima-ballerina, who had her night time assistance enabling her to go to the toilet withdrawn by her local council, has lost her appeal to the Supreme Court. 67 year old Elaine McDonald needs help following a stroke twelve years ago.

The London Borough of Kensington and Chelsea withdrew her night time carer last November, offering her incontinence pads instead, although she is not incontinent.

Age UK, which intervened in the court case, warned that today’s 4:1 decision could have potentially devastating consequences for thousands of older people if other councils took similar decisions.

Michelle Mitchell, Charity Director at Age UK says:

“Today’s decision is shameful.  Older people have a fundamental right to dignity and forcing someone to sleep in their own urine and faeces could not be more undignified.

“This judgement opens the door to warehousing older people in their own homes without regard to their quality of life.

 “Care should not be just about keeping people safe.  It must enable them to live dignified and fulfilled lives.”

In its submission to the Supreme Court, the council claimed it was common practice to give people in  situations similar to  Ms McDonald’s incontinence pads. Age UK believes that is bad practice and will continue to campaign to promote the dignity and privacy of older people.

Alex Rook of Irwin Mitchell solicitors who represented Age UK said:

”The submissions Age UK made to the Supreme Court in this case sought to ensure that local authorities follow the correct assessment procedures to establish an older person’s needs and  to then put in place a lawful package of care. Whilst Age UK is acutely aware of the current difficult economic climate, the right balance must be struck between the rights of the individual and the interests of the community, and Age UK continues to find it difficult  to understand  how it can be rational or reasonable to expect an older continent person to use incontinence  pads rather than to assist  them to access a toilet.”

Notes to Editors:

1.Ms McDonald is a 67 year old lady, an accomplished ballerina, who suffered a stroke in 1999. The stroke left Ms McDonald with restricted mobility so that help is needed when transferring on and off the toilet. It also left Ms McDonald with a neurogenic bladder which means she has to urinate on average three times a night.

2. Ms McDonald has had two serious falls while attempting to get on the commode on her own one resulting in a broken hip and a prolonged hospital stay where she contracted both CDiff and MRSA. She is medically unable to fit incontinence pads herself.

3. Ms McDonald likes to be as independent as possible used to enjoy her evenings and finds it hard to be forced to go to bed at 8.30 every evening.