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Friday, 12 November 2010

Hollow victory for K&C over Scottish Ballerina

Elaine McDonald, 67 is a former ballerina considered by some to be the best of her day, and is now resident in K&C. In 2008 she fell and broke her hip, coming on top of having suffered a stroke in 1999 that meant she required support to enable her to continue living in her Earls Court flat.

She was assessed by the boroughs social care experts and determind to be "eligible", in other words legally entitled to assistance provided free of charge from the social services authority, aka RBK&C Council. This was in the form a sleep in care worker, seven nights a week as problems with her bladder mean she needs to use the toilet frequently at night.

Council cuts, on the back of government funding cuts has led to reviews and more reviews. The Government says it is providing sufficient money for social care, and councils should look for savings amongst new claimants and look how their internal processes and procedures work.


Subsequently, the council decided McDonald's needs could be met more cheaply – saving £22,000 a year less than the cost of each of the vehicles bought by K&C – by supplying her with incontinence pads for use at night. Before a legal challenge could be started, care cover was cut to four nights a week as a first step.

The challenge, taken on McDonald's behalf by the Disability Law Service (DLS), a charity, and backed latterly by the Equality and Human Rights Commission, reached the appeal court for judicial review earlier this year. The case has been watched closely by councils across the country.

The court's reserved judgment finds that the council was wrong to reduce the care in the way it did, but upholds its action in later reviewing McDonald's case and concluding that she had a "more general" eligible need for night support that could be met by the provision of pads.

Kensington and Chelsea had not conducted a formal reassessment of McDonald's needs but merely reviewed her care plan, DLS spokesman said. "We're very concerned at the implication that local authorities may be able to implement reassessments by stealth in this way. What previously would have been an update, or a check on how things were going, could now be assumed to be an assesment."

McDonald, who is still receiving the four-nights-a-week care and relying on a friend to help her on other nights, said she considered it an affront to her dignity to be expected to sleep in incontinence pads.

"They say they have taken account of my personal integrity. That's absolutely and completely untrue. I don't see what's dignified about having somebody cleaning me up and clearing up the mess in the morning. I can speak up for myself, but what worries me is what's going to happen to people who can't, people who might have dementia, if they are treated like this?"

Britain's wealthiest borough, said the case was "immensely important". It was pleased that the appeal court had acknowledged the difficult decisions it had to make and its duty to consider the use of available resources for others in need.

More worryingly, this ruling appears to clear the way for councils to cut services already being provided, even if the individual's needs are unchanged. This is a terrible indictment on a society that believes itself to be civilised.

Cllr Julie Mills, who is Cabinet Member for Adult social care said: "Everyone understands that this resident has a strong preference for a night-time carer. However, the sad reality is that urinary problems are a very common feature of growing older. The financial costs of providing personal care of this kind would be prohibitive and would compromise our ability to look after our vulnerable residents."

Its all about the bottom line right? Give them what they need and then whip it away at a whim.

What price do you put on an elderly persons dignity though Cllr Mills?

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