R (D by his litigation friend SA) v Brent Council 
Keywords: Assessment, Time limits
D was a 23-year-old with autistic spectrum disorder and severe communication difficulties who was described as vulnerable. He had attended a residential special school until July 2015. On 8th May 2015, Brent Council had assessed D as having a need for suitable care and accommodation in a structured, supportive setting similar to his residential school and that this needed to be identified by July 2015. By the time of the hearing, in November 2015, D had been living at home for more than 3 months.
D’s mother, SA, had requested a placement at London Care Partnership (LCP), a residential care placement. Brent Council referred D for assessments at a number of supported living placements in addition to LCP. SA asserted that Brent Council had offered to place him at LCP so long as she funded a “top up” of the difference between the cost and the cost of local supported living arrangements. She argued that Brent’s delay in reaching a decision was primarily financial and with little regard to D’s interests. SA contended that D’s independent living skills and general condition were deteriorating at home in the absence of a suitable placement.
The court considered the Care Act assessment and care planning provisions and the wording of the guidance regarding decision making “in a timely fashion”. It was held that there were no applicable statutory time constraints and general public law principles regarding decision making in a reasonable period of time applied.
It was recognised that the further assessments sought by the council to explore options for supported living were in D’s interests, since these were more independent options than LCP and potentially more consistent with some aspects of his assessed needs and expressed wishes on the basis of the evidence. It was concluded that various aspects of the delay had been attributable to Brent Council, third parties (potential placements) and in some respects to SA. The local authority was able to undertake to complete the outstanding assessments and take a decision as to the placement to be offered within a further two weeks.
On all the facts, therefore, the delay was not held to be unlawful.
This case is notable for having concerned a Care Act assessment. However, the conclusion is utterly unsurprising and consistent with previous decisions. The lack of statutory time limits for assessment and care planning under the Care Act afford councils wide discretion as to the length of time the process can take and delays are unlikely to be found to be unlawful unless they meet a very high threshold of unreasonableness and are entirely attributable to the actions or inactions of the council concerned.