Wokingham council waits on result of legal fight
May 31, 2012
A neighbouring council is facing a legal battle over its social care eligibility in a case that could have repercussions for Wokingham.
West Berkshire Council and Wokingham Borough Council are two of only three authorities that only offer social care to adults with “critical” needs.
The move has ruled out care support for hundreds of adults in Wokingham who fall under the other three needs categories – low, moderate and substantial – since it was introduced in 2007.
A legal battle has been launched in West Berkshire, where five disabled young people who are not eligible for care have issued proceedings against the council at the High Court.
Public law specialists Irwin Mitchell are handling the case and say thousands of people miss out on necessary care and support in West Berkshire because of the social care eligibility criteria.
Alex Rook, the lawyer at Irwin Mitchell acting on behalf of the five clients, said: “Many severely disabled people across the country rely heavily on the support that is offered by social care services, but not all of those people fall under the umbrella of what is deemed ‘critical’.
“This policy in West Berkshire leaves our clients and possibly thousands of others both potentially vulnerable to harm and isolated from their local communities.”
Mike Wooldridge, development and improvement team manager at Wokingham council, said: “We would, of course, have to look closely at the outcome of the court case and whether there would be anything we’d need to consider or review.
“We do as a council support many people through other means outside of Fair Access to Care Services (FACS) assessed services, for example; drop-in services, floating support, social clubs, leisure activities and befriending services.
“We are confident that through our robust consultation and planned transition process we continue to provide social care services to those who need that support and that we are fulfilling our duty to keep vulnerable people safe.”
Last year, the council received 7,288 contacts regarding adult social care.
Of these, 5,148 were given information or accessed short-term services.
The council assessed 1,194 last year, and of these 79 per cent were assessed with “critical” needs and given social care services.
West Berkshire has declined to comment while the court case is ongoing.