Changes in accommodation: the duty to assess
Where commissioners are providing vulnerable service users with accommodation, they may decide to move them to an alternative facility considered more appropriate due, for example, to its geographical location or the ability of the care provider to meet the service user's needs.
This may also be a costs-saving measure for the Local Authority. It does not however obviate the statutory duty to assess the needs of service users in accordance with the Care Act 2014 prior to making any change to their care package.
In the 2017 case R(JF) v Merton LBC, the Claimant 'JF', had an autistic spectrum disorder, severe learning difficulties and complex needs. He required adult residential care and specialist support. He resided in a residential college from 2012, funded by London Borough of Merton Council. The Council indicated that it wished to transfer JF to Aspen Lodge, run by Sussex Health Care, in 2016 and the decision was supported by a Care Act Needs Assessment. JF's parents acting as his deputies, however made it clear that any decision to move him would be contrary to his interests and dramatically disturb his routine.
JF was granted permission for Judicial Review, the application was successful and the Council's decision was quashed.
The case serves as a reminder that any decision by a Local Authority to make a change to a service user's care without first undertaking an appropriate and lawful assessment (to include consideration of the individual's wishes and desired outcomes), can be subject to Judicial Review, and may be quashed.