Thousands of disabled people lose their liberty because of red tape

Ten-fold increase in number of people whose care arrangements need to be independently assessed causing vast backlog

social affairs correspondent

Tens of thousands of people with disabilities and mental health problems could have their right to freedom wrongly denied because of vast backlogs in assessing their care.

Councils are struggling to cope with a deluge of cases relating to peoples’ deprivation of liberty, the most senior family court judge in England and Wales was told.

A Supreme Court ruling in March changed the law on what constitutes a deprivation of a person’s liberty. Since the ruling, lawyers believe even caring for people in their own homes may be a breach of their right to freedom if it is against their wishes and best interests.

Sir James Munby, President of the Court of Protection, heard the decision has caused an explosion of cases needing to be assessed, pushing local authorities to “crisis” point.

Councils’ workload in the area has increased ten-fold with a shortfall in funding of more than £45m, according to a survey of local authorities in England by the Association of Directors of Adult Social Services (Adass).

The number of people whose care arrangements need to be independently assessed has gone from 10,184 in the year to March 2014, to a projected 112,533 in the current tax year. The number of cases which need to be brought to the Court of Protection, which makes decision on behalf of those deemed to lack capacity, is expected to go from 134 cases last year to 18,633 in the year to March 2015.

The figures relate to 106 local authorities in England who responded to a survey sent out last week. The numbers are expected to be around 30 per cent higher once Wales and the remaining English councils are counted.

The failure to deal with the backlog of cases could result in a breach of human rights, specifically Article 5, the right to liberty. If the problem is not resolved quickly, councils may face lawsuits for their failure to consider this, for example if a person with mild mental health problems is kept in a secure hospital against their wishes and best interests.

Neil Allen, the barrister representing Cheshire West and Chester Council said that the huge number of cases waiting means there is “a real and imminent risk of an Article 5 crisis”

To check whether a person’s liberty is being unfairly curtailed by their care, local authorities must have each case checked by an impartial consultant known as a best interest assessor. The ruling in March means these assessors are more needed than ever and their workload will increase exponentially thanks to an aging society and medical advances meaning people with conditions affecting their mental health living longer.

Sir James said that without cases being properly reviewed “we’ll end up with horrors where people have fallen through the cracks”.

A decision in the case is eagerly awaited by local authorities who are struggling to cope. The packed courtroom included 17 barristers and dozens of other lawyers and local authority officials.

The local authorities specifically involved in the case, which resumes today, include Surrey, Northumberland, Cornwall, Worcestershire, Barnsley, Rochdale, Sunderland and Haringey.

Michael Dooley, barrister for Cornwall Council, said the local authority was finding it impossible to keep up with the number of people needing to be assessed. “The decision of the Supreme Court have led to an unprecedented number of cases,” he said.

Life and Style
ebookNow available in paperback
ebooks
ebookA delicious collection of 50 meaty main courses
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
SPONSORED FEATURES

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating
    and  

    By clicking 'Search' you
    are agreeing to our
    Terms of Use.

    iJobs Job Widget
    iJobs General

    Recruitment Genius: Planning Administrator

    £16000 - £18000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: We are currently looking to rec...

    Recruitment Genius: Media & Advertising Sales Executive

    £20000 - £25000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This national business publishi...

    Recruitment Genius: IT Service Desk Manager

    £35000 - £40000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A great opportunity to join a p...

    Recruitment Genius: Quantity Surveyor / Assistant Quantity Surveyor

    £23698 - £30978 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This not-for-profit company man...

    Day In a Page

    Refugee crisis: David Cameron lowered the flag for the dead king of Saudi Arabia - will he do the same honour for little Aylan Kurdi?

    Cameron lowered the flag for the dead king of Saudi Arabia...

    But will he do the same honour for little Aylan Kurdi, asks Robert Fisk
    Our leaders lack courage in this refugee crisis. We are shamed by our European neighbours

    Our leaders lack courage in this refugee crisis. We are shamed by our European neighbours

    Humanity must be at the heart of politics, says Jeremy Corbyn
    Joe Biden's 'tease tour': Could the US Vice-President be testing the water for a presidential run?

    Joe Biden's 'tease tour'

    Could the US Vice-President be testing the water for a presidential run?
    Britain's 24-hour culture: With the 'leisured society' a distant dream we're working longer and less regular hours than ever

    Britain's 24-hour culture

    With the 'leisured society' a distant dream we're working longer and less regular hours than ever
    Diplomacy board game: Treachery is the way to win - which makes it just like the real thing

    The addictive nature of Diplomacy

    Bullying, betrayal, aggression – it may be just a board game, but the family that plays Diplomacy may never look at each other in the same way again
    Lady Chatterley's Lover: Racy underwear for fans of DH Lawrence's equally racy tome

    Fashion: Ooh, Lady Chatterley!

    Take inspiration from DH Lawrence's racy tome with equally racy underwear
    8 best children's clocks

    Tick-tock: 8 best children's clocks

    Whether you’re teaching them to tell the time or putting the finishing touches to a nursery, there’s a ticker for that
    Charlie Austin: Queens Park Rangers striker says ‘If the move is not right, I’m not going’

    Charlie Austin: ‘If the move is not right, I’m not going’

    After hitting 18 goals in the Premier League last season, the QPR striker was the great non-deal of transfer deadline day. But he says he'd preferred another shot at promotion
    Isis profits from destruction of antiquities by selling relics to dealers - and then blowing up the buildings they come from to conceal the evidence of looting

    How Isis profits from destruction of antiquities

    Robert Fisk on the terrorist group's manipulation of the market to increase the price of artefacts
    Labour leadership: Andy Burnham urges Jeremy Corbyn voters to think again in last-minute plea

    'If we lose touch we’ll end up with two decades of the Tories'

    In an exclusive interview, Andy Burnham urges Jeremy Corbyn voters to think again in last-minute plea
    Tunisia fears its Arab Spring could be reversed as the new regime becomes as intolerant of dissent as its predecessor

    The Arab Spring reversed

    Tunisian protesters fear that a new law will whitewash corrupt businessmen and officials, but they are finding that the new regime is becoming as intolerant of dissent as its predecessor
    King Arthur: Legendary figure was real and lived most of his life in Strathclyde, academic claims

    Academic claims King Arthur was real - and reveals where he lived

    Dr Andrew Breeze says the legendary figure did exist – but was a general, not a king
    Who is Oliver Bonas and how has he captured middle-class hearts?

    Who is Oliver Bonas?

    It's the first high-street store to pay its staff the living wage, and it saw out the recession in style
    Earth has 'lost more than half its trees' since humans first started cutting them down

    Axe-wielding Man fells half the world’s trees – leaving us just 422 each

    However, the number of trees may be eight times higher than previously thought
    60 years of Scalextric: Model cars are now stuffed with as much tech as real ones

    60 years of Scalextric

    Model cars are now stuffed with as much tech as real ones