Disabled man loses care cost appeal

Judges at the UK’s highest court have dismissed a profoundly disabled man’s appeal over his care package.

Lawyers representing 26-year-old KM, who was born without eyes and has a range of serious mental and physical conditions, said the case raised “profound issues” for disabled people dependent on local authority support.

They told the Supreme Court that Cambridgeshire County Council made an “irrational” decision when funding his care.

They said the council’s offer of around £85,000 a year was “manifestly insufficient” to meet the man’s “assessed eligible needs” – and told seven justices that an independent social worker put the cost of an annual support package at £157,000.

But the judges have unanimously rejected the case that the June 2010 decision was unlawful because it was irrational. In his lead ruling, Lord Wilson said KM’s lawyers had failed to make out that “the offer did not reflect a rational computation of the cost of meeting the appellant’s eligible needs”.

Initially, the judges were asked to reconsider a previous decision of the House of Lords on the extent to which the resources of a local authority may be taken into account in making decisions under the Chronically Sick and Disabled Persons Act 1970.

In their ruling, the judges said that to determine the appropriate direct payment to enable KM to arrange his own support, Cambridgeshire applied its “resource allocation system” (RAS) which calculated the payment due based on the average funding for people with specific needs in the local authority area, with additional sums calculated in severe cases by reference to an “upper banding calculator” (UBC).

Cambridgeshire did not expressly contest the independent £157,000 assessment, and classified KM’s needs as being critical, but disputed the proposed required level of funding. The figure of £85,000 reflected the maximum £61,000 calculated by reference to the RAS and an additional amount by reference to the UBC.

The judges said it was entirely rational for Cambridgeshire to use its RAS and UBC, and it appeared that any flaw in the computation was likely to have been in KM’s favour.

Cambridgeshire should have made a more detailed presentation of its assessment of the reasonable cost of the necessary services in KM’s case. But, in the light of the subsequent amplification of its reasoning during the litigation, it would be a pointless exercise of discretion to quash the decision so that his entitlement might be considered again, perhaps even to his disadvantage.

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