LOCAL AUTHORITY: R (F, J, S, R and others) v Wirral Borough Council [2009] EWHC 1626 (Admin)

15 JUL 2009

(Queen's Bench Division (Administrative Court); McCombe J; 9 July 2009)

The 25 claimants were all vulnerable in some way; they sought judicial review of the local authority's alleged failure properly to assess their social services needs, to provide a community care plan, or to meet their community care needs accordingly. The claimants were all being cared for by a company, which was providing funding for the claims; indeed, until shortly before the hearing, a director of the company acted as the claimants' litigation friend. The solicitors acting for the claimants initially sent letters of complaint to the local authority, alleging failure to assess each claimant's needs, and then, without pursuing the statutory complaints procedure, issued judicial review pre-action protocol letters.

The manner in which the claims had been pursued had been most unsatisfactory. The initial complaint that the local authority had failed to assess the claimants at all had been manifestly unfounded. There had also been a failure properly to engage with the statutory complaints procedure, a failure to particularise pleadings of the precise complaints being made, and a failure at the hearing to pursue the main point on which permission to seek judicial review had been granted. No case had been identified in which a claimant's proper 'eligible need' had been unmet because some formality in the assessment or care plan process had not been complied with, and the underlying complaints about the adequacy of the assessments and care plans were not the proper subject of judicial review. Some general criticisms could be made of local authority practice in filling out forms, particularly the practice of obtaining signatures from vulnerable adults on a section of the form that stated 'I agree/do not agree with the information contained in these documents', however, the court was confident that the local authority would address these problems without the need for judicial review. In any event, there had been an alternative remedy in the complaints procedure, which the claimants had not, in reality, ever invoked. The claim for judicial review was dismissed.

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