A landmark ruling on local authority eligibility assessments

The case of R v Gloucestershire County Council, ex parte Barry centred on whether, and at what point, a local authority could take into account its resources when making an assessment of a disabled person's social care needs.

Michael Barry had been in receipt of home care services from Gloucestershire County Council, provided under section 2 of the Chronically Sick and Disabled Persons Act 1970. The Act required local authorities to provide or make arrangements for services that were necessary to meet the assessed needs of a person.

However, in September 1994, the local authority withdrew services because of government cuts to funding. This decision was said to have affected 1,500 service users.

In court, Gloucestershire County Council argued that an assessment and re-assessment of need could take into account the council's resources. The claimant, Mr Barry, argued that as his personal needs had not changed, the local authority could not lawfully withdraw services.

The House of Lords judgement was very close. 3:2 with a majority ruling. It concluded that local authorities could take into account their resources when assessing a person's eligibility for community care services.

During a reassessment of needs it could take into account resources as one of the decision-making factors, but finances should not be the sole consideration. The judgment was considered a landmark ruling on local authority eligibility assessments.

Source(s)

House of Lords.
Judgments -- Reg. v. Gloucestershire C.C. and the Secretary of State for Health. Ex parte Barry.
Parliament UK; 1997.

Cragg S.
Gloucestershire: The final judgment.
Solicitors Journal; 1997.