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Claimant calls off judicial review action after council offers concessions on use of Care Act 'easements'

Concessions by Derbyshire County Council have enabled it to avoid a threatened judicial review over use of the Care Act ‘easements’ introduced by the Coronavirus Act 2020.

Claimant law firm Rook Irwin Sweeney said that following this the proposed proceedings would not be issued.

The firm had intended to act for William Runswick-Cole, by his mother, Katherine, after it said the council used provisions in the Coronavirus Act to downgrade some adult social care duties under the Care Act 2014.

Rook Irwin Sweeney said that despite the council’s change of mind it still believed the local authority's original decisions had been unlawful.

It said this was because Derbyshire had not provided evidence to demonstrate why it decided the situation was so bad by the end of March that it was no longer reasonably practicable to comply with its Care Act duties.

The firm said the threshold for operating under the easements was where continuing normal services was likely to result in urgent or acute needs not being met.

“There is nothing to show that the council decided that this threshold was met,” it said.

Rook Irwin Sweeney claimed Derbyshire’s decision “was plainly not taken in accordance with the procedure as set out in the relevant guidance”, which required the consent of local NHS bodies, the director of adult social services and informing the local health and wellbeing board and the Department of Health and Social Care, none of which it said happened.

Partner Alex Rook said the council’s claim to have met its obligation to communicate its decision “by producing a 210-page cabinet report with this decision buried within it, over three weeks after the decision was taken, was absurd”.

Derbyshire said it would rectify the situation with an ‘easy read’ version of the changes on its website, inclusion of them in its emails to the public and local newspaper announcements. 

Mr Rook said: “Our client has no desire to bring litigation where it is unnecessary to do so, and appreciates the concessions that the council has now made, both to ensure that the current decision is now properly communicated, and that there is no realistic prospect that any of the easements will result in a reduction in his care.”

A Derbyshire spokesperson said: “We contacted personally all our residents who were temporarily affected by any changes to their care services.

“The council acted lawfully at all times and any temporary changes to care services were fully, transparently and publicly reported to the council’s cabinet. 

“The unique and urgent nature of responding to the pandemic meant we did not communicate short term changes to care services to the general public as widely as we could have done and this has now been addressed.”

Solihull Council is the only other authority alongside Derbyhire to still be using the easements, after a number of other councils to returned to full duties under the Care Act.

Mark Smulian

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