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Suffolk County Council wrong to end payments to two disabled men for holidays and visits, High Court rules

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A council has been reprimanded in the High Court after ending payments for holidays and outings for two disabled adults.

The two men, who both have autism and a learning disability, sought a judicial review against Suffolk County Council's decision.

The authority, under the Care Act 2014 and the Care and Support (Eligibility Criteria) Regulations 2015, withdrew funding for holidays and ceased direct payments for outings and recreational activities.

Suffolk County Council is based at Endeavour House in Ipswich. Picture: Jason Noble LDRS
Suffolk County Council is based at Endeavour House in Ipswich. Picture: Jason Noble LDRS

From 2011 onwards, the men each received a care package that involved direct payments.

The High Court was told the payments allowed them to go to places that helped keep them calm, were beneficial for their mental health and developed their social skills.

However in March 2020, the council informed both men it would no longer fund their holidays.

The men were told: "Suffolk County Council is no longer including holiday travel and accommodation cost in personal budgets.

"This is because, as part of a wider review of how direct payments are used throughout the county, it has been identified that paying customers’ holiday costs (rather than meeting the cost of support that they need to achieve a holiday) is not a Care Act eligible need.

"The council can only use the Adult and Community Services (ACS) budget to meet the council’s statutory functions."

In November 2020, they were told their direct payments would be withdrawn.

In her conclusion, Mrs Justice Lang said: "I am unable to find any statutory basis for the restrictive interpretation of needs adopted by the council.

She added: "The evidence indicates that, from at least 2018 onwards, managers in the council began to adopt a restrictive approach to the provision of services.

"In my judgment, the council’s erroneous interpretation of its powers under the CA 2014 tainted the Eligibility Assessments by leading to a misguided exclusion of aspects of the claimants’ needs.

"The council then failed to consider whether financial support should be offered to meet those needs."

A Suffolk County Council spokesman said: “Suffolk County Council doesn’t comment on the detail of individual cases.

"Regarding the court’s judgment, however, we are carefully reviewing this before deciding whether we will be appealing the decision."