Kirklees halts 'illegal' £2m cuts to care services

Kirklees Council bosses have been accused of incompetence by a councillor livid at how they were forced into a £2m social care funding uturn.

Tory leader Coun Robert Light (Birstall and Birkenshaw) said the authority had failed to account for the law when devising its original scheme.

Kirklees currently offers intensive home support, equipment and residential care to adults with physical disabilities and learning difficulties.

The council scrapped its plans to axe social care for adults with “substantial needs” on Monday before three residents were able to get a judicial review.

The policy may have breached the 2005 Disability Discrimination Act, which was successfully used previously in court against Birmingham City Council.

High Court judge Mr Justice Walker ruled their plans, which were similar to those proposed in Kirklees, were unlawful.

Coun Light feels Kirklees should not have been in that position and said: “If they’d fallen foul of new legislation then maybe you could understand it.

“But this is legislation that’s six years old. The council has been incompetent in its policy implementation. They’ve made a mess of it.

“And it’s not just the Labour administration. It’s the officers as well. For a council to be well run, you’ve got to have both looking out for these things.”

The bungling included a botched consultation exercise which excluded major care groups like Mencap –≠and only reached Mirfield support group Ambitions4Kirklees via a third party.

Jill Robson, chief executive of Mencap In Kirklees, said: “We were not asked for our input. We used to get asked years ago, but it doesn’t happen now.”

Ambitions4Kirklees, based in Shillbank Lane, Mirfield, offer help to young people with learning difficulties and their families.

Director Bev Sissons said: “All we got was an email. And it wasn’t even sent to us directly. It came through a parent who passed it on.

“It was a tickbox questionnaire. It was quite confusingly worded and arrived when we were shut for Christmas.

“The consultation was supposed to be six weeks. We lost two weeks due to the holidays and then only found out through a parent.”

Coun Light was outraged and added: “It’s a huge disappointment that groups like Mencap were seemingly not consulted.

“But I’m not surprised. It’s how they operate. There’s been a lack of engagement on many other issues. They have contempt for the public.”

The proposed changes would have saved Kirklees £2m this year by switching the focus to caring only for those with what were judged to be ‘critical’ needs.

Kirklees had reassessed the needs of 686 out of 8,000 adults who receive social care before the process was stopped.

Only three had their care changed. Their care reverts back to the old system. Fortythree people assessed for the first time will be reassessed.

Council leader Mehboob Khan said funding was still being worked out and added: “We always try to learn lessons so that we can improve consultation.”

Merrin McRae, the council’s director of wellbeing, said: “The governmentannounced cuts were coming at fairly short notice.

“It was a very restricted consultation. We hope that we’ve now got the opportunity to explore that in more context and with more time.

“We looked at the lessons of Birmingham, at our own processes and then took legal advice. We now have an opportunity for a much larger debate.”

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