Saturday, 8 October 2011

Care, Consultation and Human Rights (15/7/11)

The outcome of the recent case R (on the application of Tiller) v Secretary of State for the Home Department highlights the importance of correct consultation procedures where there is a possiblity that the human rights of those being care for may be breached. This case concerns a local authority's decision to replace the 24-hour care provided to tenants of a sheltered housing scheme (due to financial constraints) with an on-site service during week-day office hours and an on-call remote service at other times (the most vulnerable tenants were offered accommodation at nearby facilities that offered greater levels of care).
The claimant, however, argued that throughout the process the local authority had failed to give any conscious thought to its duty under the Disability Discrimination Act 1995 (DDA), now the Equality Act, and stressed the failure of the local authority to mention the duty or the Act in any documents relating to its decision. Nevertheless, this argument was too weak to stand up in court. It was ruled that the local authority's consultation process and assessment of tenants needs were adequate and, whilst the court recognised that the DDA had not been mentioned, it made it clear that the local authority had discharged its legal obligations.
This was in fact quite a straightforward case. What it does show, however, is that it is becoming increasingly difficult to change care arrangements as legal challenges to such changes are becoming increasingly common. This is surely a good thing. While the landlords had acted properly in this instance, it is essential that proper consultation takes place before changes are made and the human rights of those being care for are protected.
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