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Disability benefits: Norfolk County Council to backdate £1m in care payments

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image captionNorfolk County Council will backdate about £1m in payments to "severely disabled" people, who a High Court judge ruled were discriminated against

About 3,200 "severely disabled" people asked to pay more towards their care will get a payment and apology from a council following a High Court ruling.

A judge said Norfolk County Council had been discriminatory by making people contribute more for their own care.

About £1m, backdated to July 2019, will now be paid after the council recommended changes on Tuesday.

A Disability Norfolk Network Group spokeswoman said the council "didn't budge or listen to the points we made".

In February 2019, the Conservative-controlled council decided to make changes to its Minimum Income Guarantee (MIG) and Personal Independence Payments (PIP) policy to calculate how much disabled people of working age should pay towards the cost of their social care, such as extra support at home and respite care which gives family members a break.

It lowered the income threshold at which disabled people had to start contributing to their own care.

The High Court judgment in December 2020 noted that "demand was rising and funding was declining" for care services, and the council faced an adult social care funding shortfall of almost £39m between 2019 and 2022.

'Discriminatory'

The Disability Norfolk Network Group spokeswoman said people whose payments had been affected had been "very stressed, very financially burdened on top of the pandemic".

"What Norfolk did was take every penny they were allowed to into account when calculating the charges," she said.

The court case was brought by a woman with Down's Syndrome and her mother, who cannot be named.

High Court judge Mr Justice Griffiths said: "No real effort has been made in argument to justify the discriminatory impact of the charging policy on the severely disabled."

He said the woman's contribution would have risen from £16.88 per week in 2019 to £50.53.

At Tuesday's meeting, the council also agreed it would make an "initial amendment" to set the MIG at £165 per week, and use its discretion over PIP payments.

It also said it would consult with those affected about the impact of its revised charging policy.

image captionCounty council leader Andrew Proctor said the council had not intended to discriminate against severely-disabled people

Council leader Andrew Proctor said the local authority "did not intend to discriminate".

"Its intention - which the judgment acknowledges - was to amend its charging policy in line with the national guidance and... other councils," he said.

"It considered this carefully and conscientiously, seeking to both phase in and mitigate the impact on vulnerable people and their income."

The local authority estimated the cost of adjusting its payments in 2021-22 would be £600,000.

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Related Topics

  • Down's syndrome
  • Norfolk County Council
  • Disability

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