Yogi Amin, partner and national head of public law at Irwin Mitchell LLP.
The Care Act 2014 has brought much needed clarity on the statutory obligations for councils to assess and provide social care. Of course, there will always be debate about whether sufficient funding has been allocated from central government to meet these obligations. But councils will have to deliver on their statutory duties or be at real risk of legal challenge. So how should managers and social workers be approaching these duties to minimise the risks of complaint and litigation?
The risk of legal challenge is not inherently a bad thing – it is part of the healthy system of accountability we expect in our society to ensure individual and community rights are respected and protected.
Being aware of the potential for challenge helps in the planning of compliant services and when assessing needs. A legal challenge could come at many different points in the delivery of services. It might come from a charity or voluntary organisation or from individuals themselves.
One example that may trigger legal challenge is when a council is consulting on proposed cuts. When councils set their social care budgets, the consultation duties are apparent. The Supreme Court’s recent judgement in Moseley v London Borough of Haringey (2014) shows that a high standard of fairness is required in consultations that propose cuts to benefits or services.
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