Monday, May 23, 2022

Needs must

A LANDMARK Supreme Court judgement is set to end the postcode lottery for people needing social care.

The ruling makes it clear that councils cannot take their finances into account when assessing people’s requirements. Described as potentially the biggest community care ruling in 15 years, it means every local authority in England and Wales may have to reconsider how it works out disabled people’s needs.

The ruling followed the case of KM v Cambridgeshire County Council, in which a blind, autistic, wheelchair user was offered a care package that he argued did not meet his needs sufficiently. As part of the case, a leading public lawyer at Irwin Mitchell, representing four national charities (Sense, National Autistic Society, RNIB and Guide Dogs), sought to clarify whether a local authority can take their financial resources into consideration.

Although the court ruled against KM, the judgement has made it clear that resources are not to be taken into account when establishing the needs of disabled people. Some councils restricted assessments on the grounds of cost and some did not, which in the past resulted in a postcode lottery for social care. Importantly, the court also made it clear that when social care support is provided by direct payments to the individual it is “crucial” that local authorities provide “a reasonable degree of detail so that a judgement can be made whether the indicative sum is too high, too low or about right”.

Yogi Amin, from Irwin Mitchell, said: “This is potentially the biggest community care ruling in 15 years.“Each of the national charities who intervened in this case firmly believes that a person’s individual needs are the same regardless of where they live and have campaigned tirelessly to ensure there is complete transparency in terms of what an individual’s care needs are.”

All four charities were united in their bid to clarify a previous ruling in 1997 by the House of Lords which suggested that the resources of a local authority may be taken into account when determining the care needs of individuals.

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