Mother wins court victory over two autistic sons|
LONDON, UK: A mother of two severely autistic sons has won a landmark legal victory over Lambeth council after it tried to axe the support she received to look after them.
Lawyers and charities said the case highlighted how vulnerable families caring for disabled children are being failed by struggling local authorities desperate to make budget cuts.
The single mother, who does not want to be named, cares for the two teenagers while also suffering from hew own medical problems.
Until the middle of last year, she received 37 hours a week support from the council, including help with getting the boys dressed and assistance in taking them out of the house, as their disabilities meant it was impossible for her to deal with them both on her own.
But she was told that she did not fulfil new “eligibility criteria” brought in by Lambeth and her support was immediately axed.
Her solicitor, Dan Rosenberg, said: “She was in a very difficult situation. Her concern was what the hell was going to happen to her and her children.”
After she brought judicial review proceedings against the council, the High Court approved an agreed settlement in which the family’s care arrangement has been restored while another assessment is carried out.
Lambeth has also withdrawn its new eligibility rules for all cases with immediate effect and promised to launch a public consultation if it brings in new ones.
“She is immensely relieved,” added Mr Rosenberg. “This is an important case because it sets out that local authorities have to consult before they bring in new criteria. One of the basic problems we had was even finding out the details of the eligibility criteria and that makes it very hard for vulnerable families.
“The Government is currently consulting on scrapping time frames on assessments for children with needs such as disabilities. It says that it is about reducing red tape, but our concern is that if you do away with this kind of thing, disabled children and their carers go to the bottom of the pile.”
Sarah Lambert, head of policy at the National Autistic Society, said: “This important ruling has not only ensured that the two children with autism and their mother are able to get the support they need, but it has also sent a clear message to other local authorities. They must look carefully at the way they apply any eligibility criteria to ensure that children with disabilities, such as autism are not being denied much-needed services.”
A spokesman for Lambeth said: “Following an agreement reached with all parties, Lambeth are reviewing their procedures.”
More than 600,000 people in London act as unpaid carers. The Prime Minister’s wife, Samantha Cameron, highlighted their work at the launch of Carers’ Week.
(Source: Evening Standard, June 27, 2012)