Care fees paid by a Northampton woman were illegally high, a High Court judge has ruled, in a judgement that could affect many fee payers in the county.
Mr Justice Gilbart said the disabled woman, KM, who cannot be named for legal reasons, may have paid too much towards her care because the way her council works out charges is legally flawed.
This means she retains more of her own already limited income in order to get the best from lifeSolicitor for ‘KM’
The 35-year-old, who has severe learning disabilities and lives at home with her parents, won the ruling against Northamptonshire County Council.
The court found the council was “exaggerating” contributions sought from KM.
Lawyers for KM said her legal victory should clarify the law and end the problem of inconsistent policies across the country on the level of contributions vulnerable people have to make.
Anne-Marie Irwin, who represented KM, said: “This is an important decision which showed that she was being charged more by her local authority than the law allows.
“The ruling means she retains more of her own already limited income in order to get the best from life and meet the needs she has as a result of her disability.”
Mr Justice Gilbart, sitting in London, said the council’s current method of calculating charges under its “fairer contributions policy” was legally flawed and “adds about one third to the current level of contribution”.
The judge said the policy may affect large numbers of people whose contributions “are also being exaggerated through NCC’s failure to apply the national guidance or to make its policy sufficiently clear”.
A spokesman for Northamptonshire County Council said officers had believed they had the power to go against Government guidelines but would now review its policy.
He said: “While there was an issue over the application of Government guidelines on the relevant regulations the county council did have the discretion to do otherwise providing that this could be justified.
“The consequence of the decision is that the county council has been given some time to reconsider what is one element of the policy and see whether it wishes to continue with that stance, despite there being a potential difference in the government guidance.
“We will review the policy and decide if any changes should be made, just as we do on a regular basis.”
But Mrs Irwin said arie Irwin, said: “This case considered whether Northamptonshire County Council’s policy was in line with nationwide guidance, in terms of the amount our client has to pay towards the cost of her care.
“It is believed government guidance in relation to this issue has been open to varying interpretations, meaning the policies of local authorities across England and Wales could differ significantly. This judgment spells an end to such inconsistencies and could have a major bearing on the amount that vulnerable members of society are asked to pay towards their essential care needs.”