Two older disabled women have this week taken their fight against council cuts to care and support to the high court.
Lawyers for the two women have argued that Lancashire County Council breached the Disability Discrimination Act by failing to take into account the impact of proposed cuts to its social services budget on disabled people.
Both women rely on council funding to pay for the support they need to live in their own homes.
The judicial review hearing at the high court in Manchester ended today, but the judge will not deliver a judgment for at least a month.
Lawyers for the two women want the council to be forced to look again at its plans to cut its social care budget, tighten eligibility for support, and increase care charges.
They argued that the council had a choice as to whether to cut adult social care services and – if it was forced to make cuts – how much those reductions would be, and could have found savings elsewhere in its budget.
They also want the judge to make it clear that the council’s decision to adopt a policy of only providing support to meet personal care needs – which the local authority has now accepted was illegal – was indeed unlawful.
The county 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 two women are being backed in their legal action by the disabled people’s organisation Disability Equality NW (DENW).
In her witness statement, Melanie Close, DENW’s chief executive, said the council decided to reduce disabled people’s support packages before a consultation on proposed cuts had even started.
And she said the council had agreed its new budget on 17 February, despite its consultation not being due to finish until 11 days later.
After the case, Close said: “It is really difficult to know which way the judgment will go. The judge was knowledgeable and both sides made really good arguments.”
But she welcomed the council’s decision to accept that only providing support for personal care was unlawful.
Mike Calvert, the council’s cabinet member for adult and community services, said in a statement: “We recognise that this is a complicated issue. However, our view remains that we have complied with disability discrimination legislation and the decisions taken in February were entirely within the law.”
The court case was the latest in a series of legal challenges over decisions by public bodies to slash services and spending following huge cuts to government funding.
21 July 2011