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The costs of care for people with a disability can be eye-watering and, in many cases, the state may be unwilling to provide a care regime which meets the full needs of the disabled person. In such cases, legal action may produce a more acceptable result. In one striking case concerning a man who was left paralysed after falling off a roof, a local authority had simply refused to pay the £468,000-a-year cost of providing a home-based care regime.
The man, in his 30s, was immobile from the chest down and required professional care day and night. After being looked after at home for a time, he had to be moved into hospital because he developed severe bed sores. He had been resident in a specialist hospital unit for almost a year but longed to return home.
His local council was willing to pay the £156,000-a-year cost of keeping him in the unit but balked at the much higher cost of looking after him at home, as it would amount to 1.5 per cent of the council's total adult social care budget. In the circumstances, the Court of Protection was asked to decide whether the man had the legal capacity to make decisions about his own care.
The Court noted that the man was deeply frustrated at being marooned in hospital and that £130,000 in legal costs had thus far been incurred in dealing with the matter. The sad reality was that, in the absence of compensation, he would be totally reliant on the state for the rest of his life and the council was the only possible source of funding for him to be cared for within his own home.
Although the man could in theory discharge himself from hospital, doing so without a proper care regime in place would inevitably lead to a deterioration in his condition and, ultimately, his death. Following a preliminary hearing, the Court urged the man and the council to take the opportunity to reflect on the very limited options open to them and to compromise the matter without the need for further litigation.