Harrow Council Ignored Rights of Disabled People

Just before Christmas, a key case about Disability rights and changes in eligibility criteria was decided in the High Court. The judge found a local council had acted unlawfully when introducing its new policy because it had breached its duties under the Disability Discrimination Act.

The case, brought by the Public Law Project (PLP) on behalf of three service-users in Harrow, was a challenge to Harrow Council’s decision in July this year to restrict the support services it currently provides to people with critical needs only, withdrawing support from those who had substantial needs.The latter category includes those whose independence is at substantial risk if their needs are not addressed, including those who have only partial choice and control over their immediate environment, an inability to carry out the majority of personal care or domestic routines or an inability to maintain the majority of social support systems and relationships.

Local groups had grave concerns that such a restriction in services would leave hundreds of Disabled and Older people without essential support.

In the High Court, Judge David Mackie QC held that the decision to introduce the new policy was unlawful as the Council had failed to meet its duties under the Disability Discrimination Act. He described how the Council had failed to have due regard to the need to eliminate discrimination against disabled people and to promote equality of opportunity: “there is no evidence that this legal duty and its implications were drawn to the attention of decision-takers”.

The Council will now have to reconsider the issue ensuring that they meet this fundamental duty and protect the rights of disabled people when deciding whether to go ahead with the new policy or not.

The full court judgement can be read at http://www.bailii.org/ew/cases/EWHC/Admin/2007/3064.html

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