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Successful fight against closure of children’s respite home

Leigh Day lawyers prevent closure of respite home

Photo: istock

29 July 2009

Last year Frances Swaine and Merry Varney were instructed by a young man with disabilities after he and his family received mixed message from the local authority regarding the future of the respite home he regularly attended.

The family were informed that the respite home was going to close in 18 months and also received letters stating that a consultation was going to take place. When asked to clarify the position, the local authority referred again to the proposed closure and the family were left not knowing what decision had or had not been made and what, if any, consultation was going to take place.

Our client, with his father acting as Litigation Friend, approached us for help to prevent any closure taking place without proper and lawful consultation.

Lawful consultation

We wrote on behalf of our client to the local authority concerned to request that any purported decision to close the respite home be withdrawn and full and lawful consultation be carried out.

The Court has previously summarised the requirements of a lawful consultation and has stated:

“To be proper, consultation must be undertaken at a time when proposals are still at a formative stage; it must include sufficient reasons for particular proposals to allow those consulted to give intelligent consideration and an intelligent response; adequate time must be given for this purpose; and the product of consultation must be consciously taken into account when the ultimate decision is taken.”

Disability Impact Assessment

The local authority had also failed to assess the impact of its proposed closure of the respite home on disabled persons. This is required by Regulation 2.3(b) of the Disability Discrimination (Public Authorities)(Statutory Duties) Regulations 2005, which imposes a duty on public authorities to include in its Disability Equality Scheme a statement of the authority’s methods for assessing the impact of its policies and practices, or the likely impact of its proposed policies and practices, on equality for disabled persons.

"Policies and practices" covers all the proposed and current activities which a local authority carries out, including any decision regarding the closure of a service.

Decision withdrawn & consultation success

The local authority did agree to withdraw its purported decision to close the respite unit and to hold a full consultation, with a disability impact assessment. The consultation process involved local disability organisations, service users and their families, and carers. Our client, his family and others worked hard to ensure that the local authority took on board their views and recently it was confirmed that following the consultation, the local authority will not be closing the respite home.

Our client’s father recently stated:
“Our relationship with [the local authority] has been transformed since the successful campaign to save the respite unit…and I am sure that we could not have achieved this result without the support of Leigh Day and Co.”

For more information please contact Frances Swaine or Merry Varney on 020 7650 1200.

Information was correct at time of publishing. See terms and conditions for further details.

Information was correct at time of publishing. See terms and conditions for further details.

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