Isle of White Cuts Ruled Unlawful due to Lack of Consultation

An attempt by the Isle of Wight to follow Birmingham’s lead in stripping disabled people of entitlement to social care has failed in the High Court. The Isle of Wight wanted to cut care and support for people assessed as having substantial care needs. In May this year Birmingham City Council’s attempt to withdraw support from thousands of people who had substantial care needs was ruled unlawful.

Birmingham City Council claims that they are currently consulting on next year’s budget which would involve further cuts of £62 million on top of the cuts already imposed in February this year. Birmingham Against the Cuts has been warning at meetings across the city that the council’s consultation is a sham and the Isle of Wight case should make sobering reading for the councillors and senior officers running Birmingham.

The Isle of Wight’s Tory Council plan clearly shows what lies in store for vulnerable people across the country. The intention was to restrict care to those who had critical needs and only support substantial needs where it would enable someone to “remain in their own home” or “remain safe”. What would not be supported would be “involvement in work, education and learning, social support systems and relationships and other social roles and responsibilities.”

Across the country vulnerable people face the prospect of being left with the most basic level of support. Keeping someone in their own home without any access to work, education or social activity will create prisoners in their own home. Birmingham Against the Cuts believes that all people are entitled to a decent, fulfilling life – not just an existence.

The High Court rejected the Isle of Wight’s attempt to ‘downgrade’ certain needs to being less important that being housed and kept safe. Government guidance issued in February 2010 was upheld requiring the Council to treat all such needs as being important. However local and national government will keep trying to find ways of reducing the support and reducing the life chances of those in need.

In Birmingham it is reported that plans are being made by the Tory/Lib Dem Council to close Shelforce, a longstanding manufacturer of PVC doors and windows employing people with a range of disabilities. The Council admits that the workforce of about 90, who make 25,000 doors and windows every year, face the greatest possible barriers to mainstream employment. Closing Shelforce will deny the staff the opportunity of employment and social engagement.

In the Isle of Wight case the Council was criticised at some length by the Court for failing to properly consult on the impact their cuts would have on disabled people. In particular the Court said there was not enough information for the public to make an intelligent judgment of the cuts. There was a failure to provide information about how many people would be affected and how much money would be saved. There was no evidence based information in the consultation and no detail of how people who lost their care and support would be affected.

This is likely to sound familiar to anyone who has been a part of the current consultation on cuts by Birmingham City Council. Sadly we cannot assume that the High Court will be there to throw out every half-baked and half-hearted consultation. Sham consultations waste money – the money wasted on a meaningless consultation which is more about hiding the truth that being honest. In addition if the Council lose in Court yet more money is thrown away in legal fees. We call upon Birmingham City Council to start telling the public the truth about its cuts agenda and listen to the majority of people who oppose their cuts.

Bryan Nott

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Filed under Birmingham City Council, Cuts

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