Important legal victory for Disabled people

Today, the High Court found that Norfolk County Council has discriminated against Disabled people with high support needs

Exterior of the Royal Courts of Justice, London

Today, the High Court found that Norfolk County Council has discriminated against Disabled people with high support needs by introducing changes to its charging for social care policy. 

SH who bravely brought the case, is a young woman with Down Syndrome. She was successful in arguing that Norfolk County Council breached her human rights by changing its charging policy to reduce the amount people are left with to live on. The Council did this by taking as income all her enhanced daily living part of PIP (Personal Independence Payment). 

 Social care is not free, it is meanstested, and the Care Act 2014 allows local authorities to make people pay for their social care support. This includes people who live on meanstested benefits. Some part of social care support, therefore, is funded by taking away people’s benefits. 

 Since the Care Act 2014 came into force, many local authorities have changed their policies to make up for central government shortfalls in funding by targeting Disabled people and older people via increases in social care charging. Many Councils are including the daily living component of PIP as income to be paid for social care. Norfolk County Council followed suit and decided to gradually reduce the amount people are left to live on from £189 to £132 per week for young Disabled people. 

It is worth noting that central government thinks it is acceptable for some Disabled people to be left with less than £100 per week to live on. 

 The judgement today shows that the current system and the changes implemented by local authorities have had disproportionately negative impact on Disabled people with the highest support needs. This group of Disabled people find it extremely difficult to get a job and maximise their incomeMoreover, they usually need social care support to meet very basic needs. They are also the least likely and able to challenge local authority charging decisions.  Consequently, they are often pushed into deeper poverty. It is clear from the judgement that Norfolk County Council did not consider or effectively mitigate this disproportionate impact on this group of people Furthermore, Disabled People’s Organisations across the country are telling us that Norfolk County Council is not alone, and many other local authorities implement similar policies.  

The judgement today also confirms that the current system which, in theory, allows people to reduce the amount they pay by claiming disabilityrelated expenses is ineffective.  This system is intrusive, inaccessibleslow and exceedingly difficult to navigate, especially without support. 

Inclusion London believes it is wrong to make disabled people pay for vital support that they need. This is a tax on disability. Non-disabled people do not need to pay to get out of bed, take a shower, meet friends, or cook meals.  Under the current system, because Disabled people need support to carry out basic, everyday activities, they often must pay at the expense of eating and heatingSocial care support should promote independent living, choice, control, and inclusion. But instead, it pushes people into extreme poverty  

We hope this judgment today will be a wakeup call for local authoritiesIt is short-sighted unfair, unjust and discriminatory to force people who can least afford it to pay more for the vital support they needSocial care support must be transformed and funded through general taxation, and not by taking away disabled people’s benefits. 

 The judgment is available here https://www.bailii.org/ew/cases/EWHC/Admin/2020/3436.html