In an important judgment relating to the powers and duties of a local authority under the Care Act 2014, Lang J has today decided that Suffolk County Council were wrong in law to decide that they did not have power to assist two disabled men to have holidays and use recreational facilities.
KG and BG are brothers and are autistic, as well has having physical disabilities. They receive full time care from their mother, and have difficulties trusting other carers. The local authority used to provide them with a direct payment that permitted them to go to various recreational activities that they enjoyed such as bird reserves. In addition, Suffolk formerly provided the family with a small annual lump sum that enabled them to go on holiday. This provided their mother with a break from the burdens of house-keeping and gave her respite from the everyday work of looking after her sons.
This was suddenly taken away when Suffolk decided that direct payments could not be used for paying entrance fees, travel or accommodation – although they did offer to pay for the men to go on holiday without their parents, not something that they could have done in light of their trust issues.
Lang J said that "care and support" in the Care Act 2014 meant something more than just care:
The words "care" and "support" are not synonymous, and the word "support" must have been added by Parliament to denote something in addition to, "care". In the context of the CA 2014, the natural and ordinary meaning of the word "support" is the provision of assistance to someone in need, in particular, financial assistance.
Accordingly Suffolk had erred in thinking that they could not, as a matter of law, provide financial assistance to the Claimants. They had unlawfully restricted their consideration of what they could assist the Claimants with and had stopped meeting their need for recreation and this had had an adverse effect on their well-being. They were ordered to reassess the Claimants' needs on a lawful basis.
Suffolk are seeking permission to appeal.
Catherine Rowlands appeared for the Claimants and was instructed by Karen May and Louise Plumstead of Bindmans.
Read the judgment here.