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Lambeth withdraws eligibility criteria for children in need

Settlement of judicial review proceedings may have implications for other local authorities

A mother and her two autistic children have successfully settled judicial review proceedings which challenged Lambeth Council's eligibility criteria introduced by Lambeth Council. 

The terms of settlement were approved by the Administrative Court. This result will not only benefit vulnerable children in Lambeth, but may have wider ramifications for other local authorities.

The claim stemmed from the introduction by Lambeth of eligibility criteria for 'children in need' which set thresholds before children's services would accept referrals, conduct assessments, or provide services. The claimants are two vulnerable autistic children and their mother. They had been in receipt of a support package from Lambeth, for 37 hours' care per week, which was reduced to nothing last year following the introduction of the eligibility criteria. They challenged (1) the lawfulness of the eligibility criteria themselves; (2) the flawed process followed in introducing the criteria (no public consultation, without regard for their equality duties); and (3) the decision-making in their own individual cases.

Under the settlement the family have achieved the relief they sought to deal with their situation. The order also required Lambeth to withdraw immediately their eligibility criteria; not to rely upon those criteria in any of its decisions; and to undertake a 12-week public consultation if it intends to introduce any new criteria.

During the case it emerged that Lambeth had 'outsourced' the drafting of their eligibility criteria to a private consultancy firm. They have performed a similar role for many local authorities around the country, and these criteria remain in force. The legal team for these claimants is now considering the wider implications of their case for these other local authorities.

Caoilfhionn Gallagher of Doughty Street Chambers, instructed by Dan Rosenberg of Maxwell Gillott, acted for the family.