A severely disabled man who needs 24-hour care has lost his landmark High Court legal challenge after Oxfordshire County Council significantly reduced his care package.
Luke Davey who is a quadriplegic with cerebral palsy and is also registered blind, had been living in his own specially adapted home with 24-hour support from a team of personal assistants who had been in place for 20 years.
In April 2015 an assessment concluded he needed a 24-hour care package; however the council started to reduce Luke’s funding down to just 17.5 hours. Luke, his family and an independent report claimed this would have a detrimental effect on his wellbeing.
His care package had been partially funded by the Independent Living Fund (which was closed by the Government in 2015) and the local authority was responsible for funding all of his care.
Luke, who can make his own decisions but requires assistance with all his personal care needs, argued that his independence was central to his wellbeing and this in turn, relied on him being supported by his team of personal assistants. He did not want to be forced to spend time alone stating that he experienced anxiety when on his own.
Luke brought a judicial review of the council’s decision to slash his care package on the basis it breached several statutory duties under the Care Act 2014, including the duty to ‘promote an individual’s wellbeing’ set out in section 1 of the Act and the duty to meet an individual’s eligible needs set out in section 18 of the legislation.
This was a landmark case because it was the first legal challenge dealing with the Care Act’s wellbeing principle and care package provision duties and it has huge implications for disabled people’s rights.
In my view, the judgment in this case highlights the difficulties in interpreting the statutory concept of wellbeing (which is the driving force behind the Care Act) because it includes a number of intangible factors such as: personal dignity and control over day-to-day life.
Added to this, is the fact that legally, it is the council which ultimately decides how to meet needs – despite the Care Act’s lip service to putting the individual at the centre of the process - the council has the final say, taking resources into account. This grants significant power to local authorities when it comes to setting personal budgets and what it means in a nutshell, is that in these times of austerity, limited funds will mean care package cutbacks and disabled people being left without enough support.
It is clear that the closure of the Independent Living Fund and the Government’s austerity drive are having a devastating impact on disabled people’s lives and that despite Care Act rhetoric, some of our most vulnerable members of society are finding themselves worse off than ever before, unable to live independently and fearing for their future.