Family challenge council decision to cut respite services successful

3 mins read

Thursday 11 April 2024

Tags: short breaks, campaigning, respite, challenging cuts, legal challenge

Family members Jen, Steve and Charlee

Plans to cut short break (respite) services in Derbyshire have been put on hold following legal action by Contact Changemakers, Jen and Steve Jackson.

Jen and Steve instructed lawyers from Rook Irwin Sweeney following advice from Contact that found the consultation to be flawed. It only ran for two weeks, and proposals were unclear. Rook Irwin Sweeney issued an urgent legal letter [PDF] to stop any decisions being made at a council meeting due to be held on Thursday 11 April. The council have now withdrawn the proposal and said it will consult again.

Jen and Steve hope their action inspires other parent carers to challenge unlawful decisions and cuts to services. They say having the backing of the local parent carer forum, lawyers and the Disabled Children’s Partnership has really made them feel “heard”.

Charlee is thriving at The Getaway

Jen and Steve explain why their daughter Charlee loves attending the short break service called the Getaway:

“Charlee has never had the opportunity to go to a friend’s house for tea, or on a school trip. She gets all of this and so much more at The Getaway. Charlee is thriving at the Getaway. Her communication has massively improved, she’s started using the toilet, she’s much more adventurous with her food, she’s better at feeding herself – all of which give her a much better quality of life, and will be a HUGE help for her ‘care’ in the long term”.

They go on to say:

“We were devastated when we heard about the consultation to dramatically reduce Short Break services in Derbyshire. The plans were clearly based on short term cost savings, pitting families who need a break against families who need full time residential care. It feels like we are an ‘easy target’ who have very little ‘spare time or energy’ to push back.”

Flawed consultation

Alex Rook from law firm Rook Irwin Sweeney, who acted under the firm’s innovative Social Justice Fund, said:

“Public bodies have a duty to consult fairly, including making sure that families fully understand the implications of any proposal, and giving them sufficient time for them to respond.

“This consultation was very clearly flawed – the actual proposed cuts, and the consequences of them, were very vague and two weeks does not give enough time for families to properly respond. The consultation was therefore unlawful, and any decision made in reliance upon would also be unlawful. We welcome the decision to withdraw the decision from the Cabinet meeting.”

The local parent carer forum also raised concerned about how the consultation has been conducted and back the legal action.

Balancing the books

Anna Bird, the CEO of Contact and the chair of the Disabled Children’s Partnership said:

“We understand the very difficult financial position that Derbyshire County Council, and indeed almost every other council, are currently facing. However, that does not mean that cuts to vital disability services ‘need’ to be made. It isn’t fair to balance the books on the backs of families with disabled children.”

Please email if you are worried about cuts to respite services in your area.