A disabled woman and the families of two disabled children have launched High Court legal actions against their local council over its plans to make multi-million pound cuts to vital support services.
The court actions are the latest in a series of legal challenges over decisions by public bodies to slash services and spending following huge cuts to government funding.
In the latest cases, a disabled Lancashire woman and the parents of two disabled boys – Boy A and Boy D – are seeking judicial reviews of decisions made by Lancashire County Council.
The disabled woman is challenging cuts to adult social care and possible cuts to her own care package.
The council wants to raise the eligibility threshold for support from “moderate” to “substantial”, saving £2.5 million a year for the next two years; cut spending on personal budgets and home care by £12 million over three years; and increase revenue from charging by more than £5.5 million over four years.
The woman’s case is likely to be heard by the High Court at the same time as the case brought by the parents of Boy A and Boy D over funding for respite care.
Melanie Close, chief executive of Disability Equality (nw), which is supporting the cases, said there was real “fear” felt by disabled people in the county, particularly those currently assessed as having “moderate” needs.
The government’s plans to cut spending on disability living allowance have increased those fears, she said.
She added: “People feel that everything they rely on is suddenly being pulled away from them.
“We understand the council need to save money but these are worrying times for disabled people, parents and carers.
“Decisions that affect people’s quality of life cannot and should not be taken lightly – that’s why we have legislation to protect disabled children and adults.”
Irwin Mitchell, the solicitors representing all three claimants, said the way the council had reached its decisions relating to respite care had breached the Disability Discrimination Act (DDA) and the Children Act because it failed to take into account the full impact on the children.
Lancashire County Council said it was “unable to comment on specific cases for reasons of confidentiality” but “does not accept the criticism that has been made in respect of its budget decisions”.
Meanwhile, a key court case over spending cuts was set to begin today (14 April) at the High Court in Birmingham.
A woman with learning difficulties is seeking a judicial review in a case which her lawyers believe could have “huge ramifications for local authorities across the UK”.
Birmingham City Council plans to cut its adult social care budget and restrict eligibility for support to those with “critical” needs.
Irwin Mitchell, which is representing the woman, was set to argue that the council failed to consult properly over the cuts, and breached the woman’s human rights and its duty to have “due regard” to promoting equality under the DDA.
14 April 2011