First Court of Appeal judgment on Care Act 2014

In its first judgment dealing with the Care Act 2014, the Court of Appeal has dismissed an appeal by a severely disabled man over a council’s decision…

Davey, R (on the application of) v Oxfordshire County Council & Ors [2017] EWCA Civ 1308

Overview

In its first judgment dealing with the Care Act 2014, the Court of Appeal has dismissed an appeal by a severely disabled man over a council’s decision to reduce his personal budget by 42% and to revise his care and support plan. Whilst the court expressed sympathy for the claimant and his family, they concluded that the council’s actions had not been unlawful.

In detail

The claimant Mr. Davey, who has quadriplegic cerebral palsy, is registered blind and uses a wheelchair, had received care for many years pursuant to an agreed care plan. The cost of care totalled £1651 per week, partly funded by the defendant council, and partly by the Independent Living Fund (“ILF”) (£730 per week). The ILF was closed down in June 2015, meaning that funding for Mr. Davey’s care and support was provided solely by the council with a small contribution from Mr. Davey. The council initially decided to reduce the funding to £903 per week, but revised this and instead reduced it to £950 per week. Mr. Davey’s response was that his needs could not be met by such an amount but the council carried out further assessments of needs and produced a revised care plan and personal budget, confirming the weekly sum of £950.

In the High Court, Mr. Davey’s claim was rejected and he went on to appeal three findings by the judge. Mr Justice Morris had concluded that:

  • The council did not fail to consider the effect of the claimant being expected to spend three periods of two hours per day alone upon his ability to engage in social activities; there was thus no breach of Section 1 of the Care Act 2014 or other unlawful act; (ground 2c)
  • The council did have regard to the need to ensure that decisions about the claimant were made having regard to all Mr Davey’s individual circumstances and thus acted in compliance with its duty under Section 1(3)(d) of the 2014 Act; (ground 3)
  • It had not been established that the council had failed to evidence its contention that the proposed rates for personal assistants providing care to the claimant were reasonable or compatible with its obligations under the 2014 Act. (ground 4)

The Court of Appeal’s decision

The court unanimously dismissed the three grounds of appeal and it was apparent that they were impressed by and in agreement with the findings of the High Court judge.

In a lengthy judgment, Lord Justice Bean nevertheless concluded "It is understandable that the claimant, Mr Davey, and other members of his family objected to the updated needs assessment, which has resulted in a substantial reduction in the level of the claimant's personal budget. I have great respect for the manner in which the claimant, his family and his team of carers cope with his difficult situation. But that is not the same thing as holding that the council's actions have been unlawful."

A spokesman for the council said: "We will continue to work with Mr Davey and his family to ensure he gets the provision of essential services he needs. The Court of Appeal has confirmed that the Council's assessment of Mr Davey's care needs and the allocated amount for his personal budget is appropriate and lawful. All local authorities who provide adult social care services against a background of financial constraints in the public sector are having to make difficult decisions."

Conclusions and implications

Just as in the High Court, the judge expressed sympathy and understanding for the claimant and his family. Nevertheless, this is a far cry from finding that the local authority had acted unlawfully and the reality is that all local authorities which provide adult social care services in the context of a background of unprecedented financial constraints in the public sector are being forced to make difficult decisions.

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