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Moves are pending in the High Court which could in some cases land local authorities with obligations to fund care outside the UK.
Mr Justice Tuckey has paved the way for a case in which a 63-year-old stroke victim, originally from Tipperary in the Irish Republic, believes the London Borough of Camden should pay for her care in a nursing home in Ireland rather than in the council's own area.
The council argues that its obligations do not extend to "repatriation" of this nature, even though it is claimed it would be cheaper to return Lilian Kennedy to Ireland and council social workers believe it would be the best course.
Kennedy has spent most of her life in the Camden area of London working as a cleaner and housekeeper. She retired two years ago, is now wheelchair bound as a result of a stroke, and wants to live in Ireland to be close to her family.
Council social workers agreed the best way of meeting her needs would be for her to be stay in a home in Ireland.
However, senior council officials have blocked the funding of such a move on the basis that government regulations restrict such placements to England and Wales and would not allow the council to pay for her to go to Ireland.
Now Kennedy is seeking a declaration that Camden Council must comply with her request. It will be argued when the case is heard that as a retired EU worker, Kennedy has the right to the same publicly-funded services as other English residents and that the local authority has the power to buy her accommodation in the area of her choice, subject to suitability, availability and cost.
After the hearing which gave the go-ahead for the action, Kennedy's solicitor Angela Hanmore said one of the ironies of the case is that it would be cheaper for Camden to agree to Kennedy's wishes.
"If she were to be sent back it would result in a cost saving for the council as home provision in Ireland is cheaper than in London where it ranges from £550 to £650 a week," she said.