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Mum and daughter win right to High Court battle with Norfolk County Council

PUBLISHED: 12:12 13 July 2020 | UPDATED: 17:01 13 July 2020

Flashback: Disabled people, their parents and carers gathered at a public meeting at Norfolk County Council to raise concerns about the changes. Pic: Philip Williams.

Flashback: Disabled people, their parents and carers gathered at a public meeting at Norfolk County Council to raise concerns about the changes. Pic: Philip Williams.

Philip Williams

A High Court battle over human rights is pending for a young disabled woman and her mother, after a judge granted permission for their legal challenge against Norfolk County Council.

The 24-year-old Norfolk woman, who has Down Syndrome, and cannot be named for legal reasons, is fighting the council’s decision last year to change the minimum income guarantee.

That is used to assess how much disabled people aged 18 to 64 pay towards their care, and was changed by the Conservative-controlled council to save £3m.

Council leaders said it brought Norfolk in line with other authorities, but it was opposed by disabled people and opposition councillors.

The woman and her mother say that, combined with the council’s decision over which benefits are used to calculate her care charges, means she is left with a permanently depleted income.

Her mother fears it means her daughter will never be able to live independently, so sought permission for a judicial review.

A judge has now given that the go-ahead, so the matter will now go to a High Court hearing.

Rowan Smith, from Leigh Day solicitors, will argue the charges contravene his client’s human rights, discriminating against severely disabled people not in work and against adults with Down Syndrome.

The girl’s mother said: “As a mother and sole carer, I feared for my daughter’s future if these charges went ahead, particularly after the years of austerity had left many adult social care services depleted.

“I have always tried to help her to reach her full potential in everything she does. She is a cheerful, caring 24-year-old Norfolk young lady who also happens to have Down Syndrome.”

Mr Smith said: “Our client believes that Norfolk County Council acted discriminately when it decided to cut her minimum income guarantee and to include all of the Enhanced Daily Rate Living Personal Independence Payment (PIP) as part of the calculation of her daughter’s contribution to care charges from April 2020.

“The changes to benefits and care charges have severely impacted her life now and her future prospects for independent living.”

A council spokesman said: “The High Court has allowed the claimant to argue the case before a full hearing on the application of Norfolk County Council’s charging policy to her circumstances.

“A hearing will be listed in due course to consider detailed arguments on these matters.

“The High Court has endorsed the fact that Norfolk County Council’s policy had proper regard to its public sector equality duty and discharged it properly.

“We will consider our position in light of the decision on permission and any further information filed by the claimant to prepare for the full hearing in due course.”

The council last month agreed the second phase of the care charge increase would not fall on disabled people for the “foreseeable future”.

The council is using extra money it got from the government to deal with COVID-19 to cover the cost, but has said £3m savings will need to be found elsewhere in adult social care.


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