Council to agree £1m repayment to disabled people after High Court ruling
- Credit: Philip Williams
Council leaders will next week agree how to amend charging costs for thousands of disabled people after a High Court judgement that the authority discriminated against them.
The outcome of a judicial review means Norfolk County Council will have to repay about £1m to some 3,200 disabled people who had seen the amount they had to pay for care increased because of its decision to change the way care costs were calculated.
But campaigners for disabled people fear the authority will, in the longer term, still impose changes which will mean they have to pay more.
In February 2019, the Conservative-controlled council agreed to change the minimum income guarantee - used to assess how much people paid for their care.
That changed from £189 per week to £165 a week for everyone aged 18 to 64 from July 2019.
The council also took an extra £9 of the enhanced element of personal independence payments into account when working out what people should pay - which meant people had to pay more for their care.
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And from April last year, it changed it again, to £151.45 a week for people aged 18 to pension age - although, in the face of pressure from campaigners, the council used government cash so disabled people would not be affected.
The council intended to change it again from April this year for those aged 18 to 24.
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The council, which said the changes would save £4m, said it was bringing charges in line with other authorities.
However, a legal challenge launched by a young woman with Down's Syndrome went to the High Court - and a judge ruled the council had acted unlawfully and had discriminated against them in an unforeseen and unintended way.
The council cabinet will, on Tuesday, agree interim measures to revert to the £165 a week and to use discretion not to take into account any Enhanced Personal Independent Payment.
That will be backdated to July 2019, so about £1m will be paid back to the disabled people affected.
The council is due to agree to "develop an equitable and sustainable longer term charging policy", informed by "informed by consultation with disabled people".
But the parents of disabled people, who have called for Bill Borrett, cabinet member for adult social care to resign, say they have no faith in that process.
Judy Taylor, from Buxton, whose son Charlie has Down's Syndrome and who is on the steering group of Disability Network Norfolk Group, said: "We have no faith or trust in the council or the cabinet member that they will listen to us."
The mother of the young woman who launched the successful legal challenge said: "This feels like the same old, same old of them trying to do the minimum they can. They're putting the minimum income guarantee at £165 per week, but that's still a reduction on the £189 per week it used to be, so the only real difference is that £9 on the personal independence payment.
"We have had two years of fighting them over this, so why on earth should we think they are going to listen to us this time?
"They are saying they are going to consult with us, but we'd been trying to engage for the past two years and we got nowhere with engaging with them."
Mr Borrett, on the calls for him to resign, previously said: "The decision was made to bring Norfolk County Councils charging policy in line with the government’s guidance and the policy already adopted by most other similar councils.
"This decision was taken by members at a full council meeting.
"The council has accepted the judicial review’s result and has agreed to rectify it.
"The judge observed that the discrimination was inadvertent and had been unintended."