England

Councils 'at risk of failing legal duty' to vulnerable people

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Councils are at risk of failing their legal duty to people who could be detained in care facilities due to a huge funding crisis, a court has heard.

The Law Commission estimates the shortfall could be up to £666m every year, London's High Court was told.

Liverpool, Nottinghamshire, Richmond, and Shropshire councils are seeking a judicial review of the Deprivation of Liberty Safeguards (DoLS) procedure.

A 2014 Supreme Court ruling led to a tenfold rise in cases, judges heard.

The four councils claim the government has failed to provide adequate funding and has created "a national crisis" for local authorities all over England.

The case concerns the 2009 DoLS regime which was designed to protect people who lack the capacity to act for themselves and are liable to be detained in care homes or hospitals for their own safety, treatment or care.

This includes people suffering from dementia and learning difficulties.

Human rights

Councils must ensure any deprivation of liberty is lawful under human rights legislation and the Mental Health Act.

The court heard that the landmark Supreme Court ruling in 2014 - known as the Cheshire West decision - widened the definition of those subject to the regime, leading to a tenfold rise in cases.

The Local Government Association has argued that an additional £172m a year is needed while claiming government funding is currently at £34m.

James Goudie QC, appearing for the councils, said the government had "singularly failed to heed this warning".

He said: "As a result, local authorities across the country now face a massive funding deficit in delivering the mandatory human rights protections embodied in the DoLS regime."

Mr Goudie argued the Law Commission estimated the shortfall to be in the region "of a third and two thirds of a billion pounds, the vast majority of which will recur annually to local authorities".

He said: "That shortfall has created a real possibility that local authorities will not be able to fulfil their legal duties."

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