Of course they had a choice!

editorial image
Share this article

I am writing in response to the article on 28th December headed “Council rapped by High Court”.

Bev Maybury has implied that the decision went against the council because of a legal technicality.

The real question was why it should be necessary for legal action to be brought in the first place? The involvement of people with learning disabilities in decisions that affect their lives has been a long standing and fundamental principle of learning disability services. This principle is stated throughout the most recent Calderdale Council Learning Disability Strategy (taken down from their website prior to the court case).
Calderdale was one of the first councils to close long term hospital wards, designed to keep people with learning disabilities away from the rest of society. The move to residential and nursing homes in the community was followed by the creation of supported living tenancies – people living in ordinary houses in the community with support.

These were great achievements and Calderdale was in the forefront. 
Council officers that I dealt with in the past would have put their own careers on the line to defend the principle of user involvement. Today, it is the lawyers who hold sway. Their unbalanced assessment of the risks of a legal challenge from providers bidding for support contracts has led to an illogical and immoral conclusion, namely that people with learning disabilities should be excluded from the most important decision that affects their lives – which company supports them. 
I have seen emails and letters from both Council officers and politicians saying that they did not want to take this step, but they had no alternative but to follow the advice of their lawyers. Council officers and politicians would do well to remember that the legal departments of local authorities rarely attract the sharpest legal brains, and of course they had a choice! Unless decision-making within this Council improves, I predict many more legal challenges to decisions on health & social care provision in the future – which is actually in no-one’s best interest.

This family has won a vital judgement on behalf of every person with a learning disability and their families and they should be praised for their bravery and resilience in the face of a Council that chose to put a theoretical risk to itself above the interests of some of the most vulnerable people in our community.

Mark Lacey