Challenge to local authority care cutback

A Yorkshire couple are preparing for a fight to maintain the level of funded care for their severely disabled son, writes Roger Pearson.

The level of "respite care" to which people looking after severely handicapped relatives at home are entitled is to be considered by the High Court.

A couple from West Yorkshire who care for their handicapped son at home have won the right to seek judicial review of their local authority's allocation of "relief breaks". The case is to be heard as soon as possible. It centres on the plight of Stuart and Susan Jagger, whose 16-year-old son Michael suffers from cerebral palsy. Although the Jaggers, who are both in their 50s, are themselves seriously ill, they care for Michael, who is wheelchair bound and in need of constant attention and supervision at their home in Elland, Calderdale.

They claim that Calderdale Metropolitan Council has acted unlawfully in deciding to cut the respite care provision in respect of Michael to 62 nights a year. Until March of this year Mr and Mrs Jagger received between 88 and 92 nights respite care each year. When the case comes on for a full hearing, leave for them to seek judicial review has been granted by Mr Justice Sedley. It will be argued on their behalf that they should be entitled to 88 nights of respite care and an order will be sought compelling the council to make that provision to assist them in looking after Michael.

The plight of the Mr and Mrs Jagger and their need for maximum respite care assistance from the local authority is made all the more critical by their own health problems. Mr Jagger has recently undergone a heart bypass operation and also suffers from failing kidneys. Mrs Jagger has cancer.

The pending challenge is one which is likely to result in important general pointers in respect of the level of local authority assistance to which those who struggle to care for the critically disabled within the community are entitled, rather than relying on them going into special homes.

In successfully seeking leave to challenge the local authority cutback John Friel, counsel for the family told Mr Justice Sedley the matter was "desperate."