Mental Capacity Case

R (on the application of KM) (by his mother and litigation friend JM) v Cambridgeshire County Council

Lords Phillips, Walker, Brown, Kerr, Dyson, Wilson and Lady Hale

Summary: We make brief reference to this community care case, in particular because of the approach taken by the Supreme Court to the adequacy of the reasons given by the defendant local authority.

In these proceedings before the Supreme Court, the applicant sought judicial review of a determination by Cambridgeshire County Council to pay him £85,000 by way of a direct payment in discharge of their duties under the Chronically Sick and Disabled Persons Act 1970. The Court of Appeal had granted permission for the judicial review proceedings but had dismissed the substantive application.

In their application to the Supreme Court, the Applicant had sought to challenge whether the Court of Appeal had erred in finding that the local authority had been "entitled and obliged to moderate the assessed needs to take account of the relative severity of all those with community care needs in their area..." In particular, the Applicant challenged the earlier decision of the House of Lords in R v Gloucestershire County Council ex p Barry [1997] AC 584.

The Supreme Court concluded that the legitimacy of resource based decisions did not arise as an issue in these proceedings where, in fact, the local authority had not sought to rely on any resourcing argument when computing the level of direct payments to the Claimant. Accordingly, the Court declined to review the decision in R v Gloucestershire County Council ex p Barry [1997] AC 584. Nevertheless, both Lord Wilson and Lady Hale took the opportunity to reiterate that when analysing its duties under s.2(1) of the Chronically Sick and Disabled Persons Act 1970, a local authority is not entitled to take in to account any limitation on its resources at the first stage, namely when assessing the needs of the disabled person.

The Court also considered the twin grounds on which the applicant had made the initial application for judicial review, namely adequacy of reasons and irrationality and upheld the decision of the Court of Appeal that neither was made out on the facts.

In relation to the duty to provide reasons, Lord Wilson endorsed the decision of the Court of Appeal in R (Savva) v Kensington and Chelsea Royal London Borough Council [2010] EWCA Civ 1209, [2011] PTSR 761 and concluded that whilst there were deficiencies in the reasoning given by the local authority of the facts in the present case, this was not sufficient to warrant quashing the determination. Nor could the decision be said to be irrational as the local authority had been entitled to rely on its Resource Allocation Support tool and an Upper Banding Calculator.

Comment: This case had been anticipated to be one of very greater significance, as a revisiting of Barry. However, for reasons not material here, the Supreme Court (having lined up a hearing for that purpose, and allowed intervenors on the issue) decided not to revisit it, and therefore the decision was much more limited in its scope. For present purposes, though, the case is of some importance to those in the CoP field as a reminder of the latitude that may be granted to statutory authorities in analysing the adequacy of the reasons they have given. It will also be of some - tangential - importance in any case in which a local authority has not put an option on the table in CoP proceedings and an individual wishes to challenge that decision by way of judicial review proceedings, as an indicator of the likely approach that the Administrative Court will take where the decision has been taken on the basis of resources.