CONTROVERSIAL plans to scrap at-home care for the vulnerable in Worcestershire are facing a challenge in the High Court after a 17-year-old’s mother brought legal action.
A disabled teenager, who has epilepsy, Attention deficit-hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) and learning disabilities, has won permission from the High Court for a full Judicial Review amid fears from his family that he faces being forced into a residential home.
Last November, county council bosses announced a new policy where disabled adults requiring new care packages will no longer automatically get 24-hour support in their own homes.
Instead, they will be handed cheaper alternatives, which could include being placed in ‘cluster’ style flats with on-call nurses, or even being moved to care homes.
The entire policy could now be in tatters – with council chiefs suspending it before it has even officially started to defend it in court.
The teenager, who cannot be named for legal reasons, lives in Worcestershire with his parents and is due to turn 18 this year, at which point the policy kicks in.
Polly Sweeney, from Irwin Mitchell solicitors and represents the claimant, said: “The policy is likely to have a significant impact on the ability of many disabled people within Worcestershire to live an independent life in the community.
“We have real concerns the process by which the council took this decision is seriously flawed and as a result, the needs of disabled people have not been properly considered.”
A hearing is expected to start in July after the High Court agreed to a Judicial Review on Thursday.
Councillor Peter McDonald, leader of Worcestershire’s Labour group, said: “This is great news - you cannot put a price on the disabled and expect to get away with it.
“For the most vulnerable people in Worcestershire there is no place better than home, if that’s where they want to be.
“Hopefully this policy will collapse.”
The council says around 2,000 people currently receive community care packages in Worcestershire, costing taxpayers £11 million.
Some need very basic services, but others require more intensive, around-the-clock support, and the authority says the cost is rising.
Care ranges from visits to help with washing, dressing and cleaning, to the most expensive user in the county, who cost £232,000 to support last year.
The policy is aimed at saving £500,000 over four years and would apply to all new people requiring the service, and any existing users with escalating needs.
At-home care will still be available when there are no cheaper options available, or in cases where the family are prepared to part-fund it.
Simon Mallinson, head of legal and democratic services at Worcestershire County Council, said: “We do not accept that it is unlawful to make best use of taxpayers' money, but pending the outcome of this challenge we have chosen not to implement the policy in the meantime to avoid potential disruption."