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Mum of disabled daughter launches High Court battle over council care cost change

PUBLISHED: 10:59 28 April 2020 | UPDATED: 10:59 28 April 2020

Disabled people, their parents and carers gathered at a public meeting at County Hall last year. Pic: Philip Williams.

Disabled people, their parents and carers gathered at a public meeting at County Hall last year. Pic: Philip Williams.

Philip Williams

The mother of a young woman with Down Syndrome is launching a High Court legal challenge against Norfolk County Council and the health secretary.

Disabled people, their parents and carers gathered at a public meeting at County Hall last year. Pic: Philip Williams.Disabled people, their parents and carers gathered at a public meeting at County Hall last year. Pic: Philip Williams.

She says controversial care cost changes could prevent her daughter ever becoming independent.

Last year, the Conservative-controlled council changed the minimum income guarantee, used to assess how much people aged 18 to 64 pay towards their care.

The council said it would save £4m and bring Norfolk in line with other local authorities - but it meant disabled people had to pay more for their care they get.

The council was phasing the changes in, but campaigners have been calling for the council to scrap them. The council has, after it got extra money from the government, put the second phase of that on hold for now.

And the concerned mother of a 24-year-old woman, whose minimum income guarantee is dropping from £189 a week to £151.45 a week, has lodged an application, on her daughter’s behalf, for a judicial review. The application, in which she is represented by Leigh Day solicitors, was lodged with the High Court on Friday.

Her mother is concerned the care costs are so expensive that she will not be able to afford to pay for the support her daughter needs to help her prepare for independent living, without pushing the family into serious financial difficulties.

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The claim is being made against Norfolk County Council and health secretary Matt Hancock.

The mother is also challenging the council’s decision to include an enhanced rate in the personal independence payment (PIP) as part of the calculation of her daughter’s contribution to care charges from April 2020.

The mother said: “I would very much like to see my daughter settled and happy and in supported independent living before I become too elderly too look after her, so she is not dealing with both the grief of losing me and a complete lifestyle change all at once.

“The current charges mean the costs of preparing for that change have become virtually impossible for us to meet.

“My daughter speaks of having a job, learning to drive, getting married, having a baby, seeing her family and friends. She has a right to dream of the same ambitions as her peers.

“Why should these ambitions be closed to her because the costs of learning to live independently are too high for a severely disabled person to meet?”

Rowan Smith, Leigh Day solicitor said: “If a person in receipt of PIP is able to work, that earned income is not included in an assessment of that person’s care charges, quite rightly because the government wants to encourage recipients to be increasingly independent.

“However, a person such as our client, who has Down Syndrome, associated learning difficulties and is a particularly vulnerable person in society, is obviously not able to earn an income in the same way. We make the case that therefore it is discriminatory to expect her to pay for her extra care costs out of her resulting lower income.”

A spokeswoman for Norfolk County Council said: “We believe our decisions have been made properly, the process having been tested by the Local Government and Social Care Ombudsman, and will defend our decision making process in any review.”


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