London borough faces legal action over proposed closure of respite facility
Created on 11 April 2017
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.”
Council to scrap care charges
Created on 8 December 2014
Hammersmith and Fulham Council announced they will be getting rid of the charges after saving money elsewhere
Elderly and disabled people in Hammersmith and Fulham Council will no longer have to pay for home care charges.
A total of 313 people who currently pay for carers to help carry out everyday tasks such as having a bath, cleaning or shopping will no longer have to pay the £12 an hour charge which can amount to £281 a week.
Council leader Stephen Cowan announced the changes at last night’s public meeting held to celebrate the United Nation’s international day of disabled people.
There are 1,666 people in the borough who use the home care service, with the majority eligible for free home care, but those who fall outside the threshold will not have to pay from April next year if the final decision is voted on at the council’s annual budget-setting process in February.
Mr Cowan said: “I am pleased we have found the money from back office cuts, such as from the council’s PR and admin budgets, and today announce that this administration will abolish what has rightly become known as a tax on disability.”
The council says that abolishing care charges will cost £324,000 a year in lost income but that the scheme is being funded by £400,000 cuts in PR, council publications and lamp post banners.
Welcome to the Learning Disability Alliance England
Created on 26 November 2014
This week sees the launch of the Learning Disability Alliance England. For us in Scotland, despite all the recent work over the referendum there are many concerns that we share with people in England – welfare reform, employment, the development of the economy and equality issues.
For example, the roll out of Universal Credit across the whole of the UK will see the end of Severe Disability Premium which helps people with learning disabilities live independently. Many people will be forced to make hard choices about rent, heating and food – all of which can cost more for people with disabilities, no matter which side of the border they live on.
We think that there will be many more things that are devolved that we can still cooperate on. Many people don’t realise that case law and precedent set in either Scotland or England usually applies subsequently in both. Legal rulings on equality law in England help us in Scotland while case law on assessment from Scotland helps make sure councils play fair in England.
Today more than ever austerity makes us all brothers and sisters. We hope that together we can really begin to change the way that people with learning disabilities are seen and listened to no matter where they live in the United Kingdom. Working together we are all stronger.