Council defeats claim brought on behalf of 101 year old over care home closure

A city council has successfully defended a High Court challenge brought on behalf of a 101-year-old resident over its decision to close her care home.

Leicester City Council had decided in October 2013 to withdraw from the provision of direct residential home care.

Legal proceedings were brought on behalf of Amrutben Karia, who lived in one of the three care homes affected by phase one of the council’s decision.

The claimant is a British Asian woman of Gujarati descent who has been a resident of Herrick Lodge since 1999.

Closure of the home was postponed pending determination of the application for judicial review.

In Karia, R (On the Application Of) v Leicester City Council [2014] EWHC 3105 (Admin) it was argued on behalf of the claimant that Leicester had:

  • Failed to adequately inform itself on material issues of fact and proceeded on the basis of fundamental errors of fact relating to first, the overall present and future levels of demand for residential care home provision; and second, the nature of demand for residential care before making the October 2013 decision in breach of the principles explained by Lord Diplock in Secretary of State for Education and Science v Tameside NBC [1977] AC 1014;
  • Reached the October 2013 decision "without due regard" to first, the need to avoid unlawful discrimination in the provision of services; second, the need to advance equality of opportunity for people of Asian descent; and third, the need to give due regard to the need to foster good relations contrary respectively to s149 (1) (a), s149 (1) (b) and s149 (1) (c) of the Equality Act 2010 (EA") respectively. In essence, the claim was that the council failed to comply with its public sector equality duty; and
  • Failed when making the October 2013 decision to take into account relevant considerations including (i) the impact of the closure of Herrick Lodge on the claimant's future Article 8 ECHR rights; (ii) the alleged breach of the claimant's legitimate expectation of a home for life at Herrick Lodge; and (iii) the claimant's likely future care needs and whether these can be met in alternative potential placements if Herrick Lodge were to be closed.

There was no challenge to the consultation process that Leicester had undertaken leading up to the decision.

The local authority argued that the claim had not been brought promptly and that no good reason had been put forward to justify the delay so that permission should be refused. It also rejected all three issues raised by the claimant’s legal team.

Sir Stephen Silber, sitting as a High Court judge, said he was quite satisfied that the application for judicial review had been made promptly in light of the detailed and lengthy factual background to the claim, the issues involved and the amount of documentation relating to this claim.

The judge granted permission to pursue the application but then went on to dismiss all three grounds.

He said: “I have very great sympathy for the fact that the claimant does not wish to leave Herrick Lodge, especially because of her great age and as Herrick Lodge has been her home for a very long period and because she feels happy and settled there.

“I can understand why she and her family are concerned about the prospect of her moving, but my task is to apply the recognised legal principles which show as I have sought to explain, there are no valid grounds for challenging the October Decision notwithstanding the able arguments of [her counsel]. I should add that if the council seeks to move the claimant to an unacceptable place, she might be able to challenge that decision and that might be some consolation to her and her family.”

Responding to the judgment, Cllr Rita Patel, Leicester Assistant City Mayor for adult social care, said: “The decision to close the home follows a long and thorough process of consultation and analysis, and we are pleased that this was recognised by the court. Herrick Lodge is the most under-occupied of all of our homes, with just four of its 40 available places in use.

"However, we understand how difficult the prospect of moving from Herrick Lodge is for this resident. It has been her home for a long time and she feels settled and happy there. We can provide full support to help find another placement, and we know from our experience of supporting residents moving to homes in the independent sector that this can be a very positive step."

Cllr Patel added: “We will now work closely with residents and families to agree the best possible options for future care. This will inform how quickly we move to close Herrick Lodge. Any further lengthy delay in this process would not be in anyone’s interests.”

Andrew Sharland of 11KBW appeared for the council, instructed by its in-house legal team.

Helen Mountfield QC of Matrix Chambers appeared for the claimant, instructed by Deighton Pierce Glynn.

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