Independence...Integrity...Value

Birmingham Adult Social Care Case

May 2011

On 21st April 2011, the families of four disabled residents from Birmingham won a landmark legal challenge against the City Council after a court ruled the authority’s plans to cut its adult social care budget were unlawful. Final Judgment was given on 19th May 2011.

Adrian Waite of AWICS acted as an expert witness on local government finance for the plaintiffs. This briefing paper summarises the case.

The disabled residents were told by the Council that as from 1st April 2011, any needs that were not considered ‘critical’ would no longer be paid for, leaving them concerned that many of their essential care and support needs would be unmet.

Solicitors Irwin Mitchell and Public Law Solicitors acted for the claimants and engaged Doughty Street Chambers as barristers and Adrian Waite of ‘AWICS’ to act as an expert witness on finance.

This Birmingham Adult Social Care case is significant for a number of reasons:

  • It underlines the importance of the Disability Discrimination Act 1995 –especially section 49a. Councils must take care to promote equality for disabled people in considering policies and funding options that affect disabled people
  • It underlines the fact that any reorganisation of a service or setting of a budgeti nvolves considering equalities duties through an effective Equality Impact Needs Assessment.
  • It establishes that local authorities cannot ignore the rights of disabled people when they make changes or economies in adult social care services and that they must carry out
  • It establishes that the setting of local authority budgets is not just a financial process but one that needs to be strategic and comprehensive and needs to take account of the rights of individuals who are affected such as disabled people. In making economies, Councils need to demonstrate that they have considered and consulted on all options.

Many authorities have restricted eligibility for adult social care as part of a package of economies in their 2011/12 budgets. Birmingham City Council was not alone in facing a egal challenge to their adult social care budget and was not alone in being found to have acted unlawfully. For full briefing paper please click here.

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