The following article dates from Friday, 15 April 2011 and is taken from The Broken Of Britain blog. This was a blog written by the late Dr Rhydian Fon James and his words are as relevant today as they were nine years ago.
To read a biography about Rhydian, please click the following link. I would recommend reading all about this prolific inspirational who achieved so much before tragically passing in January 2016 at the age of just 31. Like me, Rhydian lived with Friedreich’s Ataxia.
It is encouraging that the social care landscape has changed for the better in Wales since this article was published, as disabled people are now protected by the Social Services and Wellbeing (Wales) Act of 2014. In addition, the Welsh Government have made a commitment to the Codes of Practice to Article 19 of the UN Convention on the Rights of Disabled People.
I have now received my ‘independent reassessment’ from ICS and WCBC and am working behind the scenes to sort out an appropriate care package. I do not want to say too much at this stage as I need to concentrate and stay focused on the negotiations ahead.
The Human Right To Dignity
This week was meant to be a quiet one, with Parliament in recess; no pressing issues on the news agenda; no MPs to brief. Meant to be. It hasn’t quite worked out this way, and we’ve all been busy preparing the continued campaign. This has meant that I haven’t had a chance to write about an interesting court case that’s been on my mind for the last couple of weeks.
Last week the Supreme Court heard an appeal case with huge implications for disabled people who receive packages of support. The court heard the appeal of Elaine McDonald, whose care package was cut by Kensington and Chelsea council even though it had assessed her as needing that support. McDonald became disabled following a stroke in 1999 and later broke a hip in a night-time fall. She had been provided with a weekly package of 22.5 hours of daytime support and another 10 hours of care seven nights a week.
A needs assessment by the council found night-time care was essential to provide supervision to prevent her falling while using the commode at night, due to a bladder condition. But in 2008 the council said it planned to cut her care package, and said she could be given incontinence pads instead of an overnight care worker, even though she is not incontinent. In November, the Court of Appeal ruled that the council had not breached care laws, McDonald’s human rights or the Disability Discrimination Act (DDA) by cutting her support.
The Supreme Court confirmed three weeks ago that it had granted her leave to appeal. McDonald’s case is being funded by the Equality and Human Rights Commission, which said in November that it feared other councils would use the judgment to “reduce community care and services for disabled people”. The Supreme Court’s decision will not be handed down for a few weeks yet, but it will be massively important for anyone who gets a care package from their local council.
This is because the Court of Appeal had found that a council could simply review a service-user’s care needs and then reduce their support, without needing to conduct a new assessment. The precedent set by this case would affect all service users. At the moment, if the council want to cut a person’s care package, they must show that their needs have changed and that they are thus entitled to fewer hours.
As service users will know, councils have been anxious to cut costs in recent years. This has led to a great deal of pressure to cut care packages, and the near-impossibility of new care packages being offered, but the need to re-assess has slowed the austerity zeal. This is because, regardless of whether they wish to cut, councils must show that the service user’s needs have lessened prior to cutting, and a council cannot be considered to have conducted a lawful assessment simply by reviewing a disabled person’s care package.
If the Supreme Court were to uphold the Court of Appeal’s decision, it would give councils free reign over decisions to cut care packages. It would also mean that it would be more difficult to argue that the refusal to provide care was a breach of her human rights to dignity and to a private and family life.
You might think that forcing a disabled person to, effectively, wet themselves at night when they are not incontinent is humiliating and degrading. But when councils are hunting for possible cuts, it may not be illegal for councils to cut care packages and force just that outcome.