Social care under threat from £5bn cuts:

Courts step in to save vulnerable from cuts

Landmark ruling defends the right to social care – but may throw austerity plans into disarray

Two disabled men who faced losing their right to care won a landmark High Court case yesterday over cost cutting by their council. It was the latest in a series of rulings that threatens to disrupt the Government's attempts to slash local authority spending.

Campaigners said the judgment, in which the Isle of Wight council's plan to reduce its adult social care budget was ruled unlawful and quashed, should serve as a warning to every council that is planning cuts.

It is the second High Court ruling this week to deal a major blow to local authorities seeking to save millions of pounds by targeting adult social care in the wake of massive central government cuts to their budgets.

Mrs Justice Lang, sitting in London, ruled against the Isle of Wight's plan to restrict access to social care by making it harder for people to meet eligibility criteria. The judgment makes it unlawful for councils trying to make cuts to adult social care to ignore the impact this will have on a person's quality of life.

Charities including Age UK, Scope and the National Autistic Society welcomed the decision, which implies that councils are obliged to do much more than merely keep people safe. Before cutting care, they must give equal consideration to factors such as prevention of neglect, support with personal care, access to education or support to maintain family relationships.

The judgment also means courts could quash council plans if a thorough consultation process is not carried out when considering cuts to services for disabled adults.

But councils in England have been ordered to save £5.6bn by 2015 and so must find savings from somewhere. Raising the eligibility bars has been regarded as one way to reduce the numbers of people entitled to social care, and to allow councils to focus only on keeping those with the most severe problems safe.

Lawyers for the two Isle of Wight claimants, referred to as JM and NT, said the ruling sends "a very clear message" to all councils seeking to make similar cuts. The council confirmed it was under pressure to make "substantial" budget savings while at the same time protecting the vulnerable.

Andy Burnham, the shadow Health Secretary, said families were being forced to the courts because the Government had abdicated its responsibility to vulnerable people. "There is a developing crisis in adult social care as councils agonise over severe cuts they have to make because of the Government's cavalier approach to public services. It should not fall to the courts to secure quality of life and dignity for adults with severe disabilities."

Richard Hawkes, chief executive of the disability charity Scope, said: "Today's judgment should be a warning to every council to think before it cuts. Getting decisions wrong could prevent disabled people from living a full life and making an active contribution to society. We understand the pressures councils are under, but there are creative ways to strike a balance between saving money and protecting frontline support."

Alex Rook, a solicitor from Irwin Mitchell representing the families, said: "The key message is that the obligations that the state has towards disabled people go beyond merely keeping you safe. We know that pretty much all councils are making cuts in the next year; if they're thinking of doing it this way, they have a very clear steer from the courts that they can't and that it will be struck down. "

The first claimant, JM, 32, has severe autism and a brain injury suffered at birth, and lives with his parents. The second claimant, NT, 31, also has autism and a learning difficulty. He lives in residential accommodation during the week, but returns home to his mother every weekend. His mother launched court action fearing the council's new policy would have a "devastating" effect on her son's quality of life.

David Rogers, from the Local Government Association, said: "This reinforces what we already know: there isn't enough money in the system and it needs urgent reform ... Councils cannot continue to do all they have done in the past."

A Department of Health spokesman said: "The most innovative councils have proved that it is possible to achieve better outcomes whilst making efficiency savings."

Key cases: Cuts in the courts

Social care

On Wednesday a judge struck down a decision by Sefton Council to freeze care home fees for the second year running.

Reductions in provision of care for disabled people by Birmingham City Council were declared unlawful by the High Court on 19 May.

Elaine McDonald, 68, took Kensington and Chelsea council to court over its decision not to provide her with a night carer, but her case was rejected.

Education

The National Deaf Children's Society forced Stoke-on-Trent City Council to review its decision to cut educational support for deaf children on 9 September, after securing a High Court order to stop them.

Libraries

A High Court judgment on the closure of 21 libraries in Gloucestershire and Somerset is expected next week, with the cuts currently on hold after residents obtained injunctions.

Library campaigners took Brent Council to the Court of Appeal this week after the High Court rejected their claim that its closure of six buildings was "unlawful".

Tuition fees:

Two teenagers took the rise in tuition fees to the High Court last week. Callum Hurley and Katy Moore, 17, argue the rise breaches equality law.

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Voices
voices
News
general electionThis quiz matches undecided voters with the best party for them
Life and Style
Men with beards rejoice: Your beard probably doesn't harbour faeces-like bacteria
health
Arts and Entertainment
Keira Knightley and Matthew Macfadyen starred in the big screen adaptation of Austen's novel in 2005
tvStar says studios are forcing actors to get buff for period roles
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksA celebration of British elections
  • Get to the point
2015 General Election
May2015

Poll of Polls

Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

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

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Ashdown Group: Trainee Consultant - Surrey/ South West London

£22000 per annum + pension,bonus,career progression: Ashdown Group: An establi...

Ashdown Group: Trainee Consultant - Surrey / South West London

£22000 per annum + pension,bonus,career progression: Ashdown Group: An establi...

Ashdown Group: Recruitment Consultant / Account Manager - Surrey / SW London

£40000 per annum + realistic targets: Ashdown Group: A thriving recruitment co...

Ashdown Group: Part-time Payroll Officer - Yorkshire - Professional Services

£25000 per annum: Ashdown Group: A successful professional services firm is lo...

Day In a Page

Fishing for votes with Nigel Farage: The Ukip leader shows how he can work an audience as he casts his line to the disaffected of Grimsby

Fishing is on Nigel Farage's mind

Ukip leader casts a line to the disaffected
Who is bombing whom in the Middle East? It's amazing they don't all hit each other

Who is bombing whom in the Middle East?

Robert Fisk untangles the countries and factions
China's influence on fashion: At the top of the game both creatively and commercially

China's influence on fashion

At the top of the game both creatively and commercially
Lord O’Donnell: Former cabinet secretary on the election and life away from the levers of power

The man known as GOD has a reputation for getting the job done

Lord O'Donnell's three principles of rule
Rainbow shades: It's all bright on the night

Rainbow shades

It's all bright on the night
'It was first time I had ever tasted chocolate. I kept a piece, and when Amsterdam was liberated, I gave it to the first Allied soldier I saw'

Bread from heaven

Dutch survivors thank RAF for World War II drop that saved millions
Britain will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power - Labour

How 'the Axe' helped Labour

UK will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power
Rare and exclusive video shows the horrific price paid by activists for challenging the rule of jihadist extremists in Syria

The price to be paid for challenging the rule of extremists

A revolution now 'consuming its own children'
Welcome to the world of Megagames

Welcome to the world of Megagames

300 players take part in Watch the Skies! board game in London
'Nymphomaniac' actress reveals what it was really like to star in one of the most explicit films ever

Charlotte Gainsbourg on 'Nymphomaniac'

Starring in one of the most explicit films ever
Robert Fisk in Abu Dhabi: The Emirates' out-of-sight migrant workers helping to build the dream projects of its rulers

Robert Fisk in Abu Dhabi

The Emirates' out-of-sight migrant workers helping to build the dream projects of its rulers
Vince Cable interview: Charging fees for employment tribunals was 'a very bad move'

Vince Cable exclusive interview

Charging fees for employment tribunals was 'a very bad move'
Iwan Rheon interview: Game of Thrones star returns to his Welsh roots to record debut album

Iwan Rheon is returning to his Welsh roots

Rheon is best known for his role as the Bastard of Bolton. It's gruelling playing a sadistic torturer, he tells Craig McLean, but it hasn't stopped him recording an album of Welsh psychedelia
Morne Hardenberg interview: Cameraman for BBC's upcoming show Shark on filming the ocean's most dangerous predator

It's time for my close-up

Meet the man who films great whites for a living
Increasing numbers of homeless people in America keep their mobile phones on the streets

Homeless people keep mobile phones

A homeless person with a smartphone is a common sight in the US. And that's creating a network where the 'hobo' community can share information - and fight stigma - like never before