Three people with learning difficulties this week won permission from the high court for a full judicial review of the decision by Brent council to cut the “floating support” they receive through the government’s Supporting People programme.
Lawyers for the claimants – two men and a woman – say the council made the decision without carrying out any assessment of the potential risk to service-users, a proper equality impact assessment, or a consultation on the changes.
The court ruled that it was “arguable” that the council failed to have due regard under the Equality Act to its public sector equality duties, and that it had failed to consult about the proposed reduction in service.
Mary Archer, the lead claimant in the case, who was in court this week to watch the hearing, said the victory was “brilliant”.
Supporting People was launched in 2003 and provides housing-related support – administered by local authorities – to help excluded groups such as rough sleepers, people with learning difficulties or mental health conditions, travellers and older people to live independently.
The floating support allows a worker to help a service-user with housing-related problems that crop up, such as tenancy issues, personal safety and access to healthcare.
But people with learning difficulties in Brent who were receiving two to four hours of support a week are now set to see this cut to just one-and-a-half hours, including the support worker’s travel time.
Lawyers from Deighton Pierce Glynn, the firm of solicitors representing the trio, believe the cuts could lead to people being evicted from their homes, losing their benefits, being exposed to anti-social behaviour, being forced to live in unsafe properties, falling into debt, or having to be admitted to hospital.
And they believe that other councils across the country could be carrying out similar cuts to floating support.
The case follows a complaint in January by the charity Brent Mencap, which had previously provided the support the trio received under Supporting People.
The charity believes that the cuts to Supporting People hours were hidden from Brent councillors, service-users and the public.
A Brent council spokesman said: “We have noted the judge’s decision today that the claimants’ case met the low threshold of being ‘reasonably arguable’ and decided therefore that there should be a full hearing.
“The decision to award a new contract for floating support to residents with learning disabilities was taken in November 2012.
“This service was previously provided by Brent Mencap, but the new contract was awarded to Riverside Housing Limited following a competitive tendering process.
“Riverside Housing was chosen because they demonstrated they could deliver the service more efficiently and at a lower cost than the other organisations who submitted tenders.”
20 June 2013