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Second legal ruling quashing council cuts decision

A council’s plans to cuts its adult social care budget have been ruled unlawful by a High Court judge in landmark case.

Two severely disabled adults, referred to in court as JM and NT, brought the case against Isle of Wight council, which Mrs Justice Lang said had failed to comply with its own internal guidance on its new policy for assessing eligibility for adult social care.

She ruled: “The…decision on 8 and 23 February 2011 to adopt new community care eligibility criteria are quashed.”

It follows the ruling on Wednesday that struck down Sefton council’s decision to freeze care home fees unilaterally.

Alex Rook of Irwin Mitchell, who represented JM and NT, told reporters the adult social care judgment would “provide clarity for the thousands of disabled people on the island who stood to lose all or part of their social care packages under the proposed changes”.

Council chiefs said they would not appeal, and said: “We will immediately comply with the judge's ruling and return to the previous eligibility threshold whilst we consider our next steps.”

In a joint statement, council leader David Pugh and cabinet member for adult social care, housing and community safety, Roger Mazillius, said: “We are naturally disappointed with this decision, having genuinely sought to undertake a thorough and proper process of consultation.

“The Isle of Wight council was required to make substantial budget savings within a short timeframe, while at the same time protecting those who were most vulnerable and in need of support. We also had to look to the future and position ourselves to face the demographic and financial challenges that the coming years will bring.

“We will now need to spend time reflecting on the implications for both service users and the wider council budget before deciding on our next course of action.

“We accept the judge's decision that we did not provide sufficient information and that, in our attempts to explain what was a complex decision, we unintentionally breached some elements of the guidance.”

Council staff will now contact the 32 service users directly affected by the changes “to offer a reassessment of their needs”.

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