Disabled child to get care after court battle

By Robyn Rosen, June 3, 2010

A judge has ordered Hackney Council to provide care for a severely disabled toddler from a strictly Orthodox family.

The case, heard at the Royal Courts of Justice last week, involves one of eight families from the Charedi community in Stamford Hill who are pursing legal action against the Disabled Children's Team at Hackney Social Services.

The two-year-old, known as Child V, cannot breathe unassisted and has been in hospital since birth. She is due to be discharged later this month.

The parents were seeking extra care from social services to help V's mother look after her and her four-year-old sister while V's father is away studying.

Hilton Harrop-Griffiths, representing Hackney, argued that the parents, who have been trained to care for her at home, were "anxious" about their daughter's return but that it was up to them to care for their child.

I don’t want to wait for my wife to collapse

He also questioned why V's father could not help with the two children.

"It's a matter for the parents to make arrangements," he said. "There doesn't appear to be any reason why the father can't be there. It will take some getting used to but is completely feasible that one person could do it."

But Anne Lawrence, counsel for the child, said that V's medical needs were extremely demanding and that it was "practically impossible" for a lone parent to tend to her and the other child at the same time.

"It isn't about anxiety, it's about the practical reality of the situation," she said. "The local authority's position of 'if they fail we can get emergency help' doesn't stand with their duty to safeguard and protect the wellbeing of this child."

On Thursday, Justice Ouseley ordered Hackney to administer 30 hours of care in the week after V is discharged and then halved each week for the following three weeks.

Explaining the order, he said: "This is to make sure the parents are supported but don't become dependent on the support."

The local authority is required to carry out an assessment within six weeks of Child V's discharge, when the care package will be reconsidered.

Meanwhile, other parents have claimed that community charities are forced to fill in when social services refuse to provide care.

One mother said: "Eventually it was [Charedi disabled charity] Bikur Cholim D'Satmar which picked up the tab. It is providing us support which means that our baby can live at home.

"But we know this is wrong, and community organisations should not be replacing statutory services.

"We feel bad but have no choice if we want to look after our baby at home safely without having any negative impact on the rest of our children."

Another father of a four-year-old with Down's Syndrome fears he will be plunged into debt after he was refused extra care.

He said: "Having been through a lengthy assessment process, our needs were identified, but then we were told we would not be receiving any care and should be supported by community organisations.

"I do not want to wait for my wife to collapse before someone takes notice. I have employed carers privately and may well have to go into debt to cover this expense."

A Hackney Council spokeswoman said: "The council works with families and appropriate organisations to ensure services provided reflect the needs of children as assessed."

Later this month, another family is returning to court after Hackney appealed a decision ordering it to provide care 15 hours a week.

Last updated: 2:07pm, June 3 2010