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Judge gives green light to judicial review challenge over short break cuts

A High Court judge has given the families of two severely disabled children permission to bring judicial review proceedings over a council’s £215,000 funding reduction to short breaks services.

Law firm Irwin Mitchell is acting for the families of a 14-year-old boy and an 8-year-old girl from Newbury.

According to the claimants, the budget for short breaks services provided by voluntary sector organisations will be cut by 52% following West Berkshire Council’s decision on 1 March this year.

The claimants’ legal team argue that the funding reduction is unlawful "as it breaches a number of legal duties including those in the Breaks For Carers of Disabled Children Regulations 2011".

A final hearing will take place on 22 and 23 June at the Royal Courts of Justice in London.

Alice Cullingworth, the lawyer at Irwin Mitchell representing the claimants, said: “It’s very encouraging that [they] have been granted permission to proceed with a judicial review so that the High Court can determine the lawfulness of these cuts.

“As things stand, the funding decision has already been implemented and with the summer holidays on the horizon this will be when families will start feeling the worst effects of the cuts.”

Cullingworth added: “Before starting court proceedings we invited the council to reverse its decision and to think again after having assessed the sufficiency of vital short breaks for families in West Berkshire. We have also asked that they consider applying a modest amount from its reserves to prevent cutting short breaks services.

“Now that permission has been granted by the High Court, we have written to the council once more to ask it to think again and avoid incurring any more legal costs defending the claim. We hope the council will reconsider funding for these services, which provide many families with disabled children as normal a family life as possible.”

Steve Broach of Monckton Chambers is instructed by Irwin Mitchell as counsel for the claimants.

West Berkshire has previously said it would not be in a position to comment until the legal proceedings have concluded.

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