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Withdrawal of night-time care breached disabled woman’s human rights

The ECtHR ruled that the removal of night-time case from a retired, disabled ballerina was initially illegal.  However, the judgment grants the government wide discretion in balancing the needs of vulnerable individuals with ‘the economic wellbeing of the state’.  Therefore the ruling could have a significant impact on the level of support local authorities are required to provide.

In November 2008, Ms McDonald’s local council declined to pay for a night-time assistant, proposing instead that she use incontinence pads.  The ECtHR ruled that the UK government had violated Ms McDonald’s human rights, between November 2008 and November 2009, before it carried out its first full assessment of her care plan.  She was awarded €1000 in compensation for breaches of Article 8 of the ECHR, which guarantees respect for family and private life.  This is extremely significant as it is the first time that a breach of Article 8 has been identified by the ECtHR in a case concerning the provision of services or support to a disabled person.

However the Court also held that the council had acted lawfully when it reviewed her care plan in November 2009.  The Court ruled:

‘….there is no doubt that the interference (in her rights) was in accordance with the law (after the care plan was reviewed).  The Court accepts that the interference pursued a legitimate aim, namely the economic wellbeing of the state and the interests of the other care users.’

For further commentary on the significance of this ruling from the Disability Law Service please click here.  Nearly Legal’s commentary is here.