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Last Updated: Thursday, 20 December 2007, 17:41 GMT
Critical care decision 'unlawful'
A disabled man
Disabled groups say cuts threatened residents' independence
Disability rights groups are celebrating a High Court decision that a council unlawfully withdrew services for up to 500 disabled adults.

Judge David Mackie QC ruled the London Borough of Harrow was wrong to tighten up adult care eligibility criteria to meet "critical needs" only.

The council wanted to withdraw services for those with "substantial" needs.

The judge said the council introduced the policy earlier this year without sufficient consideration.

The decision may have wider impact on other councils wanting to cut back on care services for disabled residents.

The council will now have to reconsider the issue ensuring that they meet this fundamental duty
Public Law Project statement

The Public Law Project (PLP), which brought the case on behalf of disabled residents, welcomed the judge's decision that the council did not give due regard to the need to promote equality of opportunity or protect against discrimination.

The judge said: "There is no evidence that this legal duty was drawn to the attention of the decision makers".

The PLP said: "The council will now have to reconsider the issue ensuring that they meet this fundamental duty and protect the rights of disabled people when deciding whether to go ahead with the new policy or not."

'Delighted'

Among the groups supporting the legal challenge were Mencap, Mind, Age Concern and also Harrow Rethink Support Group and Harrow Association of Disabled People.

Those behind the case were Priti Hansraj Chavda, who has mental health and back problems; Margaret Fitzpatrick, 81, a widow with various illnesses and disabilities; and Milton George Maos, who has depression, anxiety and phobias.

The Learning Disability Coalition said it was "delighted" at the decision and said the judgment "sets a positive precedent for future cases".

It said: "All councils will now have to consider proactively the needs of people with a learning disability when deciding whether to restrict access to social care services," it said.

Harrow Council has said it faces tough financial choices due to being "one of the worst-funded boroughs in the capital".

After the judgement, David Ashton, deputy leader and portfolio holder for finance at Harrow Council, said: "We accept the judge's conclusions."



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