Lindley v Tameside Metropolitan Borough Council [2006] EWHC 2296 (Admin)

The claimant (L) suffered from cerebral palsy.  He was 69 years old and doubly incontinent.  He also had arthritis and dysarthia, a speech impediment.  He was on any view a seriously disabled man who needed 24-hour care.  For the past 20 years he had lived at Katherine House (KH) a care home run by the defendants, Tameside Metropolitan Borough Council (Tameside).  Tameside proposed to close KH and move the residents to Lomas Court (LC), a newly built facility which had individual units let to residents by a Housing Association.  Any need for support or care was provided in the resident’s own homes.  Such personal care was provided by the services of a domiciliary care agency independent of the landlord Housing Association.

 

The issue in this case was whether a promise made to the claimant by Tameside to move him to LC and provide care according to his assessment of need, whatever the level, created a legitimate expectation and if so, whether to frustrate that expectation would amount to an abuse of power.  L relied on three letters sent to him by Tameside which offered a transfer to LC on the basis that there were no reasons, based on his care needs, why he should not be transferred.  Tameside changed its conclusions in light of developing evidence about L’s needs.  It decided that LC could not meet L’s assessed needs and that the change in L’s needs was of sufficient overriding interest to justify a departure from its earlier assurances. Further, Tameside claimed that it would be unlawful to proceed to offer a place at LC when it believed that L’s needs could not be met there.  It was also the case that L had accepted that LC could not meet his needs on occasions in the past and he had not wanted to go there.

 

This case started as a wholesale challenge by thirteen residents of KH against Tameside’s proposals to close their care home and transfer them to another facility.  All but L withdrew from the proceedings many having transferred to the new facility.

 

L was granted permission to proceed on the basis of his assertion that an assessment of his nursing needs had been unlawful. The claim before the court was that Tameside had committed itself to enabling L to live at LC and have all of his assessed needs met, whatever the extent of those needs.  The court considered whether Tameside was bound by the apparent assurances it had given to L.  It considered whether they did in fact create a legitimate expectation. The court further considered whether, if there was a legitimate expectation, then circumstances had changed in such a way as to no longer require Tameside to meet those expectations.

 

The court in R v North and East Devon Health Authority, ex parte Coughlan identified a number of possible outcomes in cases involving legitimate expectations“Where the court considers that a lawful promise ….. has induced a legitimate expectation of a benefit which is substantive …..  the court will decide whether to frustrate the expectation is so unfair that to take a new and different course will amount to an abuse of power.  Once the legitimacy of the expectation is established the court will have the task of weighing the requirements of fairness against any overriding interest relied upon for the change of policy.”

 

In the letters before claim it was clear that all of the residents of KH, including L, were opposed to the move to LC.  When Tameside made its original offer to L it relied on a care assessment which did not identify that L had needs requiring nursing care.  Tameside had no reason to doubt that L could be accommodated at LC.  L’s condition was deteriorating slowly. Following a fresh community care assessment, a new care plan expressed reservations about L’s suitability for LCA nursing care assessment took place which concluded that L needed nursing care and that neither KH nor LC intended to provide such care.  The nursing assessment stated that L would need 24-hour care. When Tameside became aware of the assessment it changed its view as to the suitability of LC for L.  At a multi-disciplinary professionals meeting there was a recommendation that L required the support of two support workers 24-hours a day in a residential setting.  Tameside’s view was that this care could never have been provided at LC.  Tameside set out a number of reasons why LC could not meet L’s assessed needs.  LC was a sheltered housing scheme and not a care home.  There were limitations on the care which could be provided by the domiciliary care agency.  The intention behind LC was to promote independence and autonomy of residents living within their own flats with care supporting their individual care plans.

 

The court accepted that when Tameside offered L a place at LC, it was not aware of the full extent of L’s needs. The three letters to L had to be seen in context.  Initially he did not want the move to LC to be implemented.  It was hard to see how L had been relying on the assurances in such a way as to be a detriment to him.  The facts suggested that the commitment made by Tameside in its letters had not for most of the period in question, been relied upon by L.  The court held that the assurances given by Tameside did not create a legitimate expectation that should be enforced and it followed that there was no abuse of power.  Even if there was an enforceable expectation, it would have been contrary to L’s welfare needs for Tameside to be required to move him to LC.  It was clearly not an appropriate facility for meeting L’s needs and it would not be right for the court to order Tameside to accommodate L at LC.

 

Application for judicial review dismissed.

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