The Care Act wellbeing principle Part 2. It does have teeth.
JF’s mother, as his litigation friend, brought a judicial review against a decision by the local authority to end his placement at DL College and move him to alternative accommodation.
JF has Autism and severe learning difficulties. He requires 24-hour specialist residential care with 1:1 care at home and 2:1 care when out in the community. He had been living at DL College for around 15 years.
In January 2016, the local authority sent JF’s parents a draft Care Act needs assessment concluding that his placement at DL College was due to end. The Lodge was identified as, in the authority’s view, the only suitable alternative, though at the time of the proceedings the move had yet to be agreed by the relevant funding panel within the local authority. The Lodge had conducted a pre-admission assessment and concluded that it could meet JF’s needs. Placement at the Lodge was cheaper than DL College and the local authority accepted that this was part of the reason for the proposed move.
JF’s parents claimed that the local authority had failed to complete a lawful needs assessment and therefore that the termination and proposed move was unlawful. In particular they claimed that the local authority had failed to discharge its wellbeing duty.
The court set out the following factors required in order for a needs assessment to be lawful:
- It must assess the impact of the adult’s needs for care and support upon the wellbeing factors listed in section 1(2) of the Act
- It must assess what the adult wants to achieve in day-to-day life and how support can contribute to these outcomes
- It must consider the adult’s wishes and preferences, including the views of guardians if appropriate.
JF’s assessment failed in the points above, particularly as to whether he required an on-site multidisciplinary team at any new placement.
The Care Act is a relatively new animal and all case law at this point is treading new ground and requires careful consideration. This is particularly true of those that touch on the wellbeing principle. As a wide-reaching and general duty it good to see that it is evolving, this case following Davey v Oxfordshire CC, to give actionable rights to those dissatisfied with their needs assessments. It is now entirely credible for an adult to point to their needs assessment and ask where their wishes and objectives have been taken into account.
There is also an important process point here. It is entirely possible for a local authority to take costs into account when deciding how needs are to be met. Likewise, it can, if done correctly, require an adult to pay the extra costs of a preferred placement. But here the local authority made a decision to terminate JF’s placement without having been satisfied that there was a suitable alternative. That is simply the wrong way round. To terminate JF’s placement and then inform him that there is only one suitable alternative is far from the collaborative and transparent decision making process that we need.
The judgment can be found here.