THE LUKE DAVEY CASE- Does it end independent living for disabled people?
Luke Davey is a severely disabled adult. He has quadriplegic cerebral palsy, a severe visual impairment, cannot weight bear and uses a wheelchair. He needs help with all his personal care and activities of daily living including accessing the community. However, with a large care package and funding from the Independent Living Fund he has a team of carers he lives independently in his own home in Oxfordshire. The cost of his package was £1651. However, he was reassessed by his local authority. The personal budget and hence his Direct Payment was reduced to £950. He sought judicial review of actions of his local authority but this was rejected by judge. The judgement is long and complex. However, Dr. Lucy Series of Cardiff University has an incisive article on her blog, “The Small Places” entitled “Davey v Oxfordshire CC: The tactics of austerity.” It is required reading. In particular for those who saw and continue to see the Care Act as, at long last, placing the views of disabled people above that of the “professionals” i.e. social workers, OTs etc. in deciding their care needs.
It seemed that section 1 of the Care Act heralded this brave new world of self-directed support by introducing the “well being” principle. Significantly the principle is not directly defined in the Act. A reader of the legislation is adrift in a sea of factors which appear all encompassing of a disabled person’s life and needs and hence leading to independent living. However, the right to independent living (which was clearly what Luke Davey wanted) did not appear in the Act but in the accompanying guidance which states:
The concept of “independent living” is a core part of the well being principle, and is detailed in the requirement to consider the person’s control over their day- to-day life, the suitability of their accommodation and their contribution to society.
So far so good. But how then did the council decide to cut in Luke Davey’s care package? They came up with a truly alarming approach considering Luke was averse to spending time alone, it made him anxious. The relevant need which led to the reduction in the package was this:
“…provide the option for Luke to spend more time alone, safely in his own home, to develop his independence, and reduce anxiety.”
What? The judge accepted there was something illogical about this approach. It seemed counterintuitive to conclude to that Luke needed to spend more time alone but it could be regarded as an “aversion approach.” However, he was satisfied that the social workers concerned genuinely believed that developing Luke’s independence was a need and his being left alone was a way to achieve this. The spin-off was a reduction in the direct payment. In addition he could pay his team of carers less who, in reality were his “community” and family having cared for him for 18 years. This may strike a chord with those of you who are fans of the film, “Cool Hand Luke.” Having escaped from a chain gang in a southern state of the USA Luke is severely punished by the prison regime who explain to him, “Luke you gotta get your mind right.”
But what happened to the well being principle? The right to independent living? Well the local authority only had to “have regard” to the individual’s own wishes but they are precisely that, wishes not assessed eligible needs. So whose views really take precedence under the Care Act? Dr. Series’ succinctly comments:
This is a good example of precisely the kind of top-down imposition of a professionals’ view of disabled person’s needs that the movement has been railing against for decades, and it’s depressing it has been so firmly established in the first real test of how far the Care Act gives effect to self-directed support.