Disabled man loses care cost appeal


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The Independent Online

Judges at the UK's highest court have dismissed a profoundly disabled man's appeal over his care package.

Lawyers representing 26-year-old KM, who was born without eyes and has a range of serious mental and physical conditions, said the case raised "profound issues" for disabled people dependent on local authority support.

They told the Supreme Court that Cambridgeshire County Council made an "irrational" decision when funding his care.

They said the council's offer of around £85,000 a year was "manifestly insufficient" to meet the man's "assessed eligible needs" - and told seven justices that an independent social worker put the cost of an annual support package at £157,000.

But today the judges unanimously rejected the case that the June 2010 decision was unlawful because it was irrational.

In his lead ruling, Lord Wilson said KM's lawyers had failed to make out that "the offer did not reflect a rational computation of the cost of meeting the appellant's eligible needs".

Initially, the judges were asked to reconsider a previous decision of the House of Lords on the extent to which the resources of a local authority may be taken into account in making decisions under the Chronically Sick and Disabled Persons Act 1970.

But it later became clear that the issue did not arise on the facts in the case of KM, who cannot be identified for legal reasons, since Cambridgeshire did not rely on resource constraints to justify its decision.

Lord Wilson said that, although KM also had spinal disease, lung and hearing problems, and an autistic spectrum disorder, he was intelligent and articulate.

He could type and use Braille, and had obtained GCSEs in French and music.

"He spends substantial periods in his music room playing the piano, the clarinet and the drums.

"He is keen on jazz and composes his own rhythm and blues music. When in 2006 a Welsh social worker visited him, he went to the piano, played the Welsh national anthem and sang it correctly in Welsh. That is remarkable."

But KM needed substantial support in feeding and self-care and in many other aspects of daily living.

In their ruling, the judges said that to determine the appropriate direct payment to enable KM to arrange his own support, Cambridgeshire applied its "resource allocation system" (RAS) which calculated the payment due based on the average funding for people with specific needs in the local authority area, with additional sums calculated in severe cases by reference to an "upper banding calculator" (UBC).

Cambridgeshire did not expressly contest the independent £157,000 assessment, and classified KM's needs as being critical, but disputed the proposed required level of funding.

The figure of £85,000 reflected the maximum £61,000 calculated by reference to the RAS and an additional amount by reference to the UBC.

The judges said it was entirely rational for Cambridgeshire to use its RAS and UBC, and it appeared that any flaw in the computation was likely to have been in KM's favour.

Cambridgeshire should have made a more detailed presentation of its assessment of the reasonable cost of the necessary services in KM's case.

But, in the light of the subsequent amplification of its reasoning during the litigation, it would be a pointless exercise of discretion to quash the decision so that his entitlement might be considered again, perhaps even to his disadvantage.