Woman fights cut in disabled son's home care

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The Independent Online
The mother of a severely disabled 11-year-old boy has been given leave to apply for a judicial review into her son's case after a council cut his home care from 21 to 6 hours a week.

Pamela Butt, who lives in Bexley, south-east London, is a lone mother and works full-time. Her son Christopher has quadriplegic cerebral palsy. He is profoundly deaf and has severe feeding problems. He can do nothing for himself.

In November, Mrs Butt was informed by the London Borough of Bexley that the 21 hours of home care would be reduced at the end of December.

Mrs Butt says the decision was taken without prior consultation. She did not attend the review of the case last year because she was with her son in hospital. There was no reassessment of Christopher's needs.

The case has been complicated by Christopher's education. After a long fight with the education authority, Gillian Shephard, Secretary of State for Education, has ruled the boy should go to the special needs school identified by his mother.

Mrs Butt said: "The social services department decided that the problems over the school should have been sorted out by December. It is now two weeks since the Secretary of State's ruling and he still has not yet been allocated a place."

In the meantime, with charitable assistance, she has employed a live- in carer. Mrs Butt is an administrative assistant at Belmarsh prison, Thamesmead. Last year prisoners raised £1,700 for Christopher.

"My job is a career post and will enable me to make some quality of life for us all," she said. "The judicial review decision is a first step. We have won the first battle. The court has decided that I do have a say in my child's needs."

Her case is being supported by the Carers National Association, which she contacted. The association's legal adviser, Luke Clements, believes that the local authority have acted unlawfully.

Francine Bates, the association's assistant director, said: "Her [Mrs Butt's] situation highlights the desperate plight faced by thousands of carers in this country. When community care was introduced carers were promised that they would be fully involved in the assessment and care plans. They were also told they would be given support to help them to continue caring.

"Despite these assurances many carers are having to struggle to get practical help and information. Mrs Butt's case clearly demonstrates the need for a change in the law to ensure that carers' needs are properly assessed."

It is estimated that there are 6.8 million carers in the UK, looking after frail, elderly, disabled or sick children, relatives or friends.