Pair Join Forces Over Local Authority's Proposals
Two elderly disabled women from Lancashire have joined forces and taken their fight to prevent the local County Council’s controversial proposals to make multi-million pound cuts to its social care budget to the Courts.
Earlier this year the two women, who both rely on the Council’s funding to pay for care to enable them to live in their own homes, called on public law experts Irwin Mitchell to help them when Lancashire County Council proposed to reduce its social services bill.
Now Irwin Mitchell’s Mathieu Culverhouse who is representing the duo is due at the High Court in Manchester in a two day hearing, expected to start on Wednesday 20th July, to argue that the proposals are unlawful in a case he says could affect thousands. A move supported by local disabled people’s organisation Disability Equality (nw) Ltd.
“We believe the Council’s decision making process at the start of the year represents a breach of both the Disability Discrimination Act 1995 as they failed to take into account what the impact on those people affected will be”, Mat said. “The hearing is listed for two days and if we are successful the local authority could be forced to look again at how it plans to reduce its social care bill.”
MB, 73, sustained life devastating injuries after contracting polio when she was just 18-months-old. Partially paralysed on the left hand side of her body, suffering from type II diabetes, asthma and a number of other painful symptoms she has had numerous painful falls which, on one occasion, caused her to break her back in two places.
Mat Culverhouse said: “MB relies on the care provided to live as normal a life as possible. She needs help getting out of bed in the morning, to shower and dress herself, keep her house tidy, and to get essential shopping done.
“A former national disabled champion she now suffers from depression made worse when she is not able to keep active and she is especially concerned that these cuts will limit her opportunities to leave the house.”
ME sufferer JG, 65, is also taking her battle for justice to court. Unable to work since 1981 she has a severe hernia, arthritis and balance problems so severe that she has to crawl on her hands and knees around the house for fear of falling.
Heavily reliant on her carers to take her out twice a week, JG also requires help with basic tasks such as bathing but has already been asked to fund much of her package privately, and is at risk of becoming housebound and isolated.
Mat said: “These two claimants rely heavily on this care. Although it is accepted that councils are required to make significant cost savings, they should not be doing it in a way which ignores the legal rights of some of society’s most vulnerable individuals.”
Mat explained: “In this judicial review our vulnerable clients seek a declaration that the Council’s decision making process in this area was unlawful. Although it will remain under pressure to cut costs, we want to force it back to the drawing board and ensure it looks at alternatives which do not impact so heavily on vulnerable groups.”
Commenting on the case, Melanie Close, Chief Executive of Disability Equality (NW) Ltd, based in Preston added:
“We understand the Council need to save money but these are worrying times for disabled people, parents and carers. Decisions that affect people's quality of life can not and should not be taken lightly - that's why we have legislation to protect disabled adults. We hope the Council will look again at the decisions made and how they made them.
“The personalisation of adult social care services is designed to give disabled people ‘choice and control’ over their lives, unlawful decisions to cut services like the one made by Lancashire County Council only serve to take away that choice and control.”
And the call for more families to join the fight was echoed by ex West Lancashire councillor Paul Cotterill. He said: “I’m interested in speaking to anyone in West Lancashire who feels their or their family’s care package or funding has been reduced to a level below what they need or what they feel is reasonable.
"Lancashire County Council has a legal duty, set out in longstanding legislation, to take proper account of the needs of vulnerable and disabled people. There is a strong view from local campaign bodies, including Disability Equality North West that the Council is failing in its duties in its rush to cut care budgets.
“Irwin Mitchell public law team specialises in this area and is currently pursuing ‘test cases’ in the courts, but it is important that other relevant cases are brought to their attention. I will act as a first point of contact, able to chat with people about their circumstances, and help them decide if they want to pursue their case with legal help. There is no cost of any kind for this, and I’m happy to travel to meet people if it helps.
“Irwin Mitchell is a leader in this field of legal justice, and they recognise that for many people the prospect of taking on the authorities in the courts can be very scary or off-putting, however much they are suffering from the cuts imposed on their care. Our challenge is to make justice open to all, and this is one way of doing it.”