Claimants seeking to stop the closure of day centres in Shropshire have this week been given permission to take their case to the Court of Appeal.
The claimants, who have learning disabilities, had sought to challenge Shropshire Council’s:
- decision to close Hartley’s Day Centre in Shrewsbury (the first claimant’s challenge); and
- decision to refuse to consult the users of 16 other centres in the county that may be closed down in the future. This challenge was brought by the second claimant, who attends one of the centres concerned (at Church Stretton).
The claimants, advised by Irwin Mitchell, argued that Shropshire had failed lawfully to consult in both cases, and had failed to comply with its public sector equality duty.
In the High Court His Honour Judge Sycamore rejected the claims.
However, this week Lord Justice Kay, Vice President of the Court of Appeal, granted permission to appeal in relation to the Hartley's Day Centre closure.
Irwin Mitchell lawyer Alex Rook said the claimants’ legal team was confident that their legal argument still stood up and that they would be successful in the Court of Appeal.
Rook said: “The judge has agreed that the case warrants further examination in the Court of Appeal and we still believe that the consultation was unlawful and that residents were simply not given any information about their day centres, preventing them from being able to make an informed contribution to the decision making process.”
Shropshire Council agreed to keep Hartley’s Day Centre open until the outcome of the High Court hearing. The centre has now closed.
Irwin Mitchell said it hoped that the local authority would “think again and consult properly about Hartley’s and the other 16 day care centres before reaching a final decision”.
Cllr Lee Chapman, Cabinet member for adult services at Shropshire, said: "Whilst we are happy that the challenge to our plans for the Mayfair Centre in Church Stretton has been dismissed by the Court of Appeal we are, of course, disappointed that the decision with regard to Hartley's Day Centre in Shrewsbury is going to be considered in full by the court.
“Inevitably the associated legal costs of this litigation to date have taken resources away from providing frontline services and we are therefore saddened that more time and tax-payers' money could now be wasted on further court proceedings. The premises at Hartley's have now closed, the staff re-deployed and the service users found alternative ways to spend their time, which on the whole we think have been successful.”
Cllr Chapman added: "Whatever the outcome of the appeal proceedings, we are continuing the work to ensure that people can access the type of adult services that are right for them. We are continuing to talk to people about the way personal budgets are used by people to access care through the national Making it Real process, which will involve detailed conversations and discussions with the people who use adult services, and their families."