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Council failed to consult properly over day centre closure by not asking specific about particular services due to close. It was not enough to imply that a new policy might mean some closures says the Court of Appeal
A county council failed to consult properly about the closure of a day centre, the Court of Appeal has ruled. The case of LH, R (on the application of) v Shropshire Council  EWCA Civ 404 centred on the closure of the Hartleys Day Centre in Shrewsbury. The claimant (LH) was a 63-year-old user of the centre who had a learning disability and had been assessed as having substantial care needs. Her sister acted as her litigation friend.
Shropshire had decided to close Hartleys after re-thinking the approach to day care in the county. This reconfiguration was partly a result of budgetary constraints and partly followed Government encouragement to give disabled people personalised budgets for spending in relation to their disability.
At issue was the extent of consultation required when a council reconfigures its day services and then decides to close a centre.
- The local authority argued that it had consulted generally about the new system it was bringing in and had made it clear that some day care centres would close.
- The claimant, however, argued that she and others should have been consulted in relation to the closure of Hartleys itself before it occurred. It was also alleged that there had been a failure to comply with the public sector equality duty contained in s. 149 of the Equality Act 2010.
Nicola Sturgeon told the SNP spring conference in Aberdeen on Saturday that the Scottish Government would set up new fund to help disabled people, to take the place of the Independent Living Fund, which she said was being closed by the UK Government.
The Scottish Independent Living Fund will support more than 3,000 disabled people, and a £5.5 million investment will mean it will be open to new claimants, as well as those who benefit from the existing scheme. The new fund will be managed by the third sector.
The UK Government's support scheme has been closed to new applicants since 2010 and is due to close altogether in June 2015.
The Scottish Government's version of the fund will come into effect in July that year, subject to the full allocation of funding being devolved.
We will be interested in clarification on how people can be referred to the new fund. The official press release says that referral will be by local authority social worker. Given that people may need to have a qualifying level of existing services before they can apply then this may not be a problem but there is a worry that giving the keys to yet another gate to local authorities may lead to consequences that no one expects.
Community Care Magazine have suggested that there are 10 ways local authorities are planning to make savings in adult social care over the next financial year.
1. Reducing care and cutting personal budgets
2. Delegating budget management to frontline staff
3. Increasing charges for social care
4. Cutting the hours of care people receive
6. Replacing home visits with telecare
7. Changes to the assessment process such as reviews over the phone
8. Squeezing providers by renegotiating contracts
9. Cutting back on mental health support
10. Reducing ‘double-up’ homecare by use of new technology
The Legal Services Agency is organising a full day conference on Deprivation of Liberty on 19th May this year.
This is to coincide with the Cheshire West judgement which has a number of implications for Scotland in particular with regard to the care and treatment of adults and children with incapacity.
LSA also have a Deprivation of Liberty test case on going in the Court of Session which is considering whether an individual can be deprived of their liberty by virtue of a Continuing and Welfare Power of Attorney.
These topics will likely be of interest to members of LDAS given our recent concerns on the use of Section 13za of the Social Work (Scotland) Act 1968.