The right of thousands of elderly and disabled people to contest cuts in community care services was put to the test yesterday in an appeal court challenge against cutbacks imposed after councils ran out of funds, writes Patricia Wynn Davies.
A ruling in favour of the two cash-strapped councils involved in the appeal will give the green light to local authorities to reassess the needs for services throughout England and Wales.
In the linked appeals a pensioner, Michael Barry, represented by Richard Gordon QC and the Royal Association for Disability and Rehabilitation (Radar), represented by Cherie Booth QC, claim that Gloucestershire and Lancashire councils respectively broke the law by withdrawing services even though needs of elderly and disabled people had not changed.
The court's decision, expected within a few weeks, is viewed by community care experts as the potential high-water mark of the impact of judicial review in the community care field.
Mr Barry's case was originally brought on behalf of 1,500 other disabled and elderly people who had home help services summarily withdrawn by Gloucestershire in September 1994. The other case concerns Annie Ingham, 88, whose 24- hour home care services were stopped despite an assessment that residential care was damaging her health. She has since died.
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