Commission welcomes Court’s decision in Devon care home case

08 November 2012

The Equality and Human Rights Commission has welcomed a Court decision which confirms that public authorities should consider the needs of older and disabled people when planning their services.

The Commission intervened in the judicial review of R (South West Care Homes and others) v Devon County Council to clarify the relevant equality law that authorities are obliged to consider when making plans.

A number of care homes had called for the judicial review, having raised concerns of inadequate funding for older and disabled people allocated to them by Devon County Council.  South West Care Homes and others said they may be forced to close care homes due to financial constraints placed upon them by the Council.

The Commission’s expert equality and human rights advice contributed to the final ruling with the Court citing the need for authorities to give due regard to the potential impact on vulnerable people of possible care home closures or reduced support.

The Commission is due to carry out a review of how local authorities commission their home care services following an inquiry into the provision of care to older and disabled people in their own homes. The inquiry found that older and disabled people were suffering breaches of their human rights due to the poor level of care they received with some authorities not having properly considered the needs of vulnerable care users when commissioning and reviewing the service they provided.

John Wadham, General Counsel at the Equality and Human Rights Commission, said:

‘This is an important case for all authorities to take note of as our population ages and with people acquiring disabilities in later life who may come to rely on care and support.

We recognise that local authorities and care providers are under financial strain at the moment; using equality duties properly is a way to ensure that spending is targeted in the most efficient way possible to advance equality of opportunity and eliminate discrimination.’


Ends

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Notes to Editors

The Court’s final judgement cited the Commission’s guidance on Section 149(1) of the Equality Act 2010 in regards to:

(1) A public authority must, in the exercise of its functions, have due regard to the need to-

a)  eliminate discrimination….,

b)  advance equality of opportunity between persons who share a relevant protected characteristic and persons who do not share  it;

c)  Foster good relations between persons who share a relevant protected characteristic and persons who do not share.

Further guidance is available here http://www.equalityhumanrights.com/advice-and-guidance/public-sector-equality-duty/

The European UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities was also cited as a factor in the ruling.  The most pertinent provisions of the UN Convention are Article 4, 5 and 19 and guidance is available here:

http://www.equalityhumanrights.com/human-rights/human-rights-practical-guidance/guidance-from-the-commission/a-guide-to-the-un-disability-convention/

Devon County Council believed that they had completed sufficient assessment under The National Assistance Act 1948 - they also should have considered the Public Sector Equality Duty.

The Commission is a statutory body established under the Equality Act 2006, which took over the responsibilities of Commission for Racial Equality, Disability Rights Commission and Equal Opportunities Commission.  It is the independent advocate for equality and human rights in Britain.  It aims to reduce inequality, eliminate discrimination, strengthen good relations between people, and promote and protect human rights.  The Commission enforces equality legislation on age, disability, gender, race, religion or belief, sexual orientation or transgender status, and encourages compliance with the Human Rights Act.  It also gives advice and guidance to businesses, the voluntary and public sectors, and to individuals.