Some years ago I went to a council do some training on the legal framework and did not er, hold back.
The feedback was that although everyone had enjoyed it, and got value from it, the view of senior management was that my visit “should have been risk managed”. I was pretty chuffed to have made such an impression at the time, I can tell you, but I haven’t been asked back since!
So I was very interested to see that warnings that legal difficulties would ensue, unless more attention was paid to public law legal principles by the management team, appear to have come true! Always great when that happens, methinks! The case is called Clarke, and here is the link to the case.
By 2013 the claimant, a man in his 20s with severe epilepsy, mental health and behaviour that challenged, had become “ordinarily resident” in a tenancy where personal care was available to him in unregistered accommodation. So the new council where the tenancy was situated became responsible for the claimant’s care, in place of Enfield, which had funded the move into the supported living setting, and continued to pay, within its discretion, a specialist epilepsy provider registered to domiciliary care.
In fact the new council did not carry out an assessment until 5 months after Enfield withdrew its willingness to carry on paying, and when it did, it concluded that the claimant’s care could be provided in a non-specialist manner. A support plan costed this at £357 per week as compared with the care package Enfield had been content to pay for, costing £1,300 per week. The new council refused to continue to fund the package from the previously contracted provider, and the young man got an interim injunction to prevent cessation of the package.
Evidence from a specialist neurologist and an epilepsy nurse documented active epilepsy, night seizures and risk of status related to stress and any non-compliance with medication, and injury from falls and 1-2 unpredictable tonic clonic seizures a month.
The provider’s evidence about its provision included its bespoke alarm system, staff trained in all emergency medications administration, and highly skilled management of prolonged seizure activity with access to 24 hour support and monitoring, including waking night staff.
During the pre-trial period, the council raised the allocation amount a little and said that Mr Clarke needed “Waking night support for 3 nights per month, in anticipation that your client will have up to 3 seizures a month during the night”.
Instead of accepting that the provider’s business model of charging per week was valid in relation to the need for 24 hour support, the council purported to assess as an appropriate response to the above profile of need, the following TIMED services:
- Support for 3 hours for 7 days a week to assist him with taking medication, meal preparation, eating/drinking and showering and bathing
- Support for 3 hours a week to assist him with cleaning, budgeting and managing bills and correspondence.
The council purported to allocate money for these needs at a level of £661 a week as a direct payment. The council did not consult the claimant before producing the updated plan; nor had it explained how it evaluated the claimant’s needs to produce the weekly figure of £661.
The council did not call for its own independent evidence, from any consultant or other experts in the field of epilepsy treatment or care. Although it had available to it the opinions expressed by the claimant’s consultant, GP, epilepsy nurse and care provider it effectively relied on the judgement of a social worker who did not claim to have any medical skills or qualifications.
In evidence, Independence Homes, the provider, said this:
“A waking night’s staff allocation for three nights a month would put Mr C in danger as it is nonsensical to suggest that assistance with medication is only needed some of the time. Additionally, his seizures are not limited to nights. They are whilst sleeping. This puts him at risk of death. So, he could easily (and often does) have a seizure whilst sleeping in the morning or early afternoon. That is why he needs 24 hour care. Sleep in support would not be able to respond to a seizure in time.”
The council maintained that another provider from whom there was no evidence would be able to meet needs, if Mr C moved from his tenancy to another address. That is, the adequacy of the provision at the cost the council wanted to keep the package to, was dependent on the service user agreeing to move HOME to another house where he would receive services from the cheaper domiciliary provider.
The judge found in favour of the claimant, and quashed the decision of the council, ordering it to re-assess the man’s needs lawfully.
[an aside here: if people with disabilities, and advocates out there, cannot do some good with this fantastic precedent about the right – and the very wrong – approach taken in this case, in these difficult times of Care Act implementation, I do not know what to offer instead, I have to say!]
Please read on for the wisdom of the judge:
“It is important to keep in mind that this is a case in which the claimant has been in receipt of these services for a number of years in circumstances in which his medical team and care providers have made it clear that his needs have not decreased. It is to be distinguished from the type of case in which a claimant is seeking services which he has not had in the past.
In my judgment the assessment by the defendant demonstrates a failure to understand and address the claimant’s medical and support needs. This is most apparent in the approach adopted by the defendant to the provision of support to provide three nights waking care a month against a background of medical and other evidence which demonstrates the need for 24 hour care in circumstances in which seizures, including sleep related seizures are unpredictable and cannot be pre-determined. The explanation as to the basis upon which three waking nights care a month are included within the package as offered in the hearing before me simply does not make sense and does not address the needs identified in the reports from the medical and other professionals.
It is also the case that the claimant has a tenancy at his current placement which has been his home for more than four years and there has been no care plan produced from the proposed non-specialist care provider.
…Notwithstanding the high hurdle faced by the claimant [on judicial review], [I find that] that the decision by the defendant failed to give appropriate weight to obviously relevant material and relied excessively on the non-expert view of a social worker in a face of a wealth of evidence to the contrary from appropriately qualified and experienced experts. I find that those opinions have not been given sufficient weight in the decision-making process and that in those circumstances the defendant should re-assess the claimant’s needs and the extent of care that as a consequence is required.
It was accepted that article 8 [the human right to respect for one’s private and family life and one’s home] was engaged. … I am satisfied that the defendant’s decision that the claimant should be expected to move from his home at which he has a tenancy, to a placement of the defendant’s choosing in circumstances in which no care plan has been provided by the proposed non-specialist care provider does amount to an unlawful interference with the claimant’s rights to respect for home and private life.”
Here is the link to the case once again. All review team staff and assessors and care planners in councils receiving people from elsewhere into their area into ordinary accommodation under the continuity provisions – please take account of the principle in this case. Those moving into supported living settings where their needs can only be met by virtue of the availability of personal care will retain continued ordinary residence rights with their OLD authority, under the Care Act, as long as the previous council writes the magic words on the care plan. See other blog posts on ‘ordinary residence’ on this Blog!