The High Court has found that the council has failed to promote equality for disabled and older people in setting rates for care homes by not considering the impact of home closures.
Devon Council did not properly consider the impact on residents of possible care home closures in its assessment of the impact of fees for 2012-13, which amounted to a breach of its duty to promote equality for or eliminate discrimination against groups including older and disabled people.
Devon Council increased fees by an average of 6.6% in 2012-13, following two consecutive years of fee freezes and resulted in local care homes raising this with the high court.
Judge Milwyn Jarman QC concluded that the consultation process was “a fair one which gave a sufficient opportunity for a meaningful response”, and the way that it calculated the costs faced by providers was “based on tenable reasoning”.
However, he said that the decision was reached “without the necessary due regard to the need to eliminate discrimination against and to promote equality amongst elderly or disabled residents”.
Consequently, the judge said that the fees decision “should not stand” and asked for a remedy to be agreed by the two sides.
The council proposed to conduct another, more detailed equality impact assessment of the decision and, on that basis, conclude whether or not the current fees should be revised, by 28 November. This has been agreed, and pending this process, the current fees will remain in place.
Both providers and council claimed victory after the case.
Alan Beale, managing director of South West Care Homes, said:
We are very happy with the outcome. We brought this action reluctantly, because we were exteremely concerned for the welfare and safety of the vulnerable people in care homes in Devon.
But the council pointed to the small number of homes represented in the challenge and the fact that two of the three grounds of the challenge had failed:
The judgement shows clearly that the model we used was rational, took into account the level and quality of care, and that we consulted widely before implementing the decision.
Source: Community Care
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