Sefton MBC, ex p Help the Aged [1997] 4 All ER 532 (CA)

Resources – persons in need of care and attention – duty of local authority to provide accommodation – s21 National Assistance Act 1948 – assessments

In deciding, under s 21(1) of the National Assistance Act 1948 Act, whether an elderly person was in need of ‘care and attention’, a local authority was entitled to have regard to its own limited financial resources. However, if the authority decided that the person was in such need, it was under an obligation to fulfil its statutory duty to make arrangements for accommodation to be made available for that person, and a lack of resources was no excuse. In this case, the authority had accepted, after an initial assessment of the applicant’s needs, that she met its own threshold as a person in need of care and attention. Once it had done so, it could not then fail to meet the duty under s21 to fund her residential accommodation, notwithstanding its lack of resources.

For the purposes of s 21(1)(a) of the 1948 Act, care and attention was not to be regarded as ‘otherwise available’ if the person concerned was unable to pay for it according to the means test regime provided for in s22 of the Act and the National Assistance (Assessment of Resources) Regulations 1992. A local authority was bound to give effect to those regulations, and could not impose its own financial threshold in determining whether care and attention was otherwise available.

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