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|28 Jun 2016|
Dundee Stronger Together
A local authority is facing a judicial review challenge over its plans for a £225,000 funding reduction to short break services. The legal action against West Berkshire Council is being brought by the families of two severely disabled children, a 14-year-old boy (B) and an 8-year-old girl (E) from Newbury.
West Berkshire’s budget for short breaks will reportedly be cut by 54% to £190,000 for 2016/17 following a decision made by the council at a meeting on 1 March.
The claimants argue that the funding reduction is unlawful, including breaching the Breaks For Carers of Disabled Children Regulations 2011. The regulations are designed to safeguard the needs of carers who would be better able to care for their disabled child more effectively if short breaks were provided.
The parents of B, who has autism and a rare neurodevelopmental disorder called William’s Syndrome, said the “life-saving” short breaks services enabled their son not only to have meaningful social experiences, but gave them a much needed break to spend quality time with his siblings and each other.
The parents of E, who is eight years old and has autism, ADHD, epilepsy and cortical dysplasia, said they relied on short breaks services to give E the opportunity to play with children her own age and so they can spend quality time with their 12-year-old son.
The claimants said the cuts meant B and E would no longer be able to access the same level of services as they did before.
Alice Cullingworth, a solicitor at Irwin Mitchell, said the council had been invited to reverse its decision and “think again” after having assessed the sufficiency of short breaks for families in West Berkshire. The authority has also been asked to apply some of its reserves to prevent cuts to short breaks.
She added: “There is no evidence West Berkshire properly analysed the level of demand for children’s short breaks services or what services will be available to meet this demand with a reduced budget of £190,000 for 2016/17.
“Nor is there proper and lawful consideration as to whether the council will be providing a sufficient range of day-time care, overnight care, educational or leisure activities, and services to assist carers in the evenings, weekends or school holidays as the law requires.”
Steve Broach of Monckton Chambers has been instructed by Irwin Mitchell as counsel for the claimants.
A spokesman for West Berkshire said: “We are aware that a judicial review application has been made by Irwin Mitchell. We do not believe it is well founded. We will not be in a position to comment further until the legal proceedings have concluded.”
The London Borough of Ealing is facing legal action over proposals to close a respite care facility for young people with complex disabilities.
The proceedings against the council are being brought by law firm Irwin Mitchell on behalf of the family of a 17-year-old, severely disabled boy (C) who has used Heller House in Southall for two nights per week since December 2010. C has also used the nine-bedroom children’s home for short breaks.
Ealing took the decision on 16 February to close the facility. The claimant argues, however, that no alternative respite care has been formalised and children who use Heller House could be forced to travel out of the borough.
Calling on the council to rescind its decision, Irwin Mitchell claimed that, because Ealing decided to close the facility without knowing whether there would be suitable alternative services available, the decision was in breach of the Equality Act 2010 as the council did not know whether and how disabled children would be detrimentally affected.
The law firm said C’s family relied on respite services to enable him to have meaningful social interactions with other youngsters in a safe and controlled environment as well as to give them a much needed break to spend time with their other children, including C’s 20-year-old brother who also has autism and complex needs and lives in a residential placement most of the time.
Alice Cullingworth, a solicitor at Irwin Mitchell, said: “We have spoken to a number of families who have told us that they would like to use the Heller House service if it were available, who either did not know about it or have not been able to access the service to date.
“It’s clear that by closing the only in-borough provider of overnight respite that there is a risk that if alternative providers lack capacity out of borough then children may not be able to access services to meet their assessed needs.”
She added: “We have spoken to a local councillor, Jon Ball, who confirmed that in his opinion it appears negotiations between Ealing Council and other local authorities are far from concrete, and that only very superficial conversations with other local authorities have been conducted to date.
“Councillor Ball confirmed to us that he believes there is no agreement presently with other local authorities, even in outline, which means a decision has been made to close this invaluable facility without a concrete alternative for the young people who so highly depend on it.”
We have had over 300 responses to the survey on the experience of people with learning disabilities with health services. Most have been from people with learning disabilities and we have people replying from all over Scotland.
Most people have been happy with their experience of health services. This has applied to all 3 services that we asked about Doctors – Hospitals – NHS 24.
They helped with my needs
I feel I got a good experience in hospital
The doctors are very good to me. I usually don't have to wait very long to see a doctor
People have reported that Doctors have been respectful and listened to them. Staff in hospital have been nice and looked after them. NHS 24 has responded quickly and helped people in need. Read the full report here
Some problems were reported.
Some Doctors didn’t listen to what people with learning disabilities had to say. Some people find it hard to express what they are feeling and what is wrong with them and in these cases, the doctors may jump to conclusions.
Doctors lack time to talk to me
Doctor surgery have tried to help me but hospital don't seem to be interested
A nurse didn't ask me but asked a stranger if I had a period. I asked for females but they still put on male staff
Glasgow City introduced personalisation in 2010 as part of a programme designed to save up to £6.4 million per year. The first phase of this for people with learning disabilities was rapidly extended to other groups. As individual budgets became the preferred method of managing support packages the council moved to close a number of day centres arguing that with individual budgets, less people would use these services.
Actually it seems that less people now use any services in Glasgow. Official figures from ESAY reports that the number of people with learning disabilities receiving any service from the council fell again in the last year, this time by 104 people to just 2,306 in 2015.
Figures produced by the NHS suggest that others have been seeking out NHS help when they cannot get it from the council. At around the time of the introduction of personalisation in Glasgow the number of “inpatient weeks” rose rapidly as can be seen in the chart. By 2013, it was costing NHS Greater Glasgow & Clyde an additional £4.5 million per year.
It seems strange that a policy of that was presented as being about Choice And Control should be connected to less people getting any service and more people using specialist hospital services.
Many councils such as Glasgow and Edinburgh have announced plans to cut their budgets in the coming financial year. Others such as North Ayrshire and Aberdeenshire are promising to increase the amount they take in Care Charges again!
But in Falkirk, campaigners have managed to get the council to think again about one particular cut. Falkirk Equal People , one of the members of LDAS, meets weekly in Grangemouth to encourage members to become more independent and act as advocates for social justice and equal opportunities.
The local council supports the group with a free let all year round, and 13 hours of support work. However, budget proposals suggested this help would end and the group might have to stop operating altogether.
A large public meeting was held in Grangemouth where it was said “this would be an example of an extremely short-sighted cut. If this group goes then you are going to see more people demanding support from health services and social services and this will end up costing a lot more money.”
Hundreds of signatures were collected on a petition. A demonstration was planned outside the Council’s budget meeting along with a deputation inside. However a few days before the council met, the group were told that plans for any cuts this year were being withdrawn.
While none of the members were resting as the cuts might re-emerge next year, this is a result the group can be proud of.