R (on the application of C) v WESTMINSTER CITY COUNCIL (2015)
Keywords: Legitimate expectation; Education; irrationality.
A decision by a local authority to cease funding for a residential educational placement was unlawful because it breached his legitimate expectation. However failure to obtain desirable evidence and limitations in the detail to which the local authority had considered how needs would be met in an alternative placement were not substantial enough flaws as to render the decision irrational.
A man with statement of SEN for autistic spectrum disorder and social communication issues had been placed in an out-of-area residential college. The college had proposed a three-year placement including independence skills, speech and occupational therapy in addition to academic education. After two years, the claimant had completed academic elements but not other aspects of the agreed educational programme and the local authority discontinued funding, proposing a transition to a local college.
The claimant provided a letter from the local authority confirming that it would fund a three-year placement. The local authority provided no evidence to justify the frustration of the expectation and identify an overriding interest, but merely denied the existence of the legitimate expectation and failed to consider the impact of frustrating that expectation. Therefore the decision to discontinue funding was unlawful.
Some of the evidence considered by the local authority’s panel was dated and some issues were not explicitly addressed and additional evidence would have been desirable. The local authority had also not considered in detail how the claimant’s needs would be met in the local college but had indicated in correspondence that it was willing to fund any support needed. However, neither flaw was sufficient to render the decision irrational, so it was not justified for the court to intervene on these grounds.