Investigating unlawful public practices
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Marc Bloomfield
Sitting on his single bed in an overcrowded B&B set only a few feet back from a main road, Shairaz Khan, who has moderate learning difficulties and a history of mental illness, tells openJustice that he has been ‘neglected by social services’.
Having previously been housed in supported living accommodation, Shairaz was told he would only be in the B&B for two weeks. He’s been here for three years now. His disabilities mean that basic care is difficult and, rather than receiving the three hours of care per day he needs, he lives in filth, struggling to feed himself.
Shairaz is one of many thousands of people who are not having their needs met by local authorities. In what ADASS (the Association of Directors of Adult Social Services) described as an 'escalating crisis in social care’,1ADASS budget survey 2019, ADASS, June 2019, page 5. we know that an estimated 1.5m older people in England have unmet care and support needs.2Estimating need in older people: findings for England – an analysis by Age UK, Age UK, November 2019, pages 3 and 9. The data for the rest of the population, though bound to be higher, does not yet exist.
In a startling admission, ADASS has admitted that under five per cent of local authorities are ‘fully confident’ of meeting their legal duties to provide care next year and beyond.3ADASS budget survey 2019, ibid, page 18.
Our investigations, which will be published over the next few weeks, suggest that the problem is systemic. It extends beyond the realm of social care and even beyond the local government level, as multiple Home Office practices have been identified. They also show the grave impact that these types of decisions are having on the individuals in need.
With the backdrop of austerity and catastrophic budget cuts (60p out of every £1 provided from central to local government will have been cut by 20204Local government funding: moving the conversation on, Local Government Association, July 2018, page 3.), it is clear that local authorities are making decisions based on budgetary concerns rather than the needs of those coming to them for support. Where there are external pressures, there is poor-quality decision-making. Not only that, these decisions are, in many cases, unlawful.
openJustice, part of openDemocracy, will be looking at the stories of people who have been at the receiving end of these unlawful practices, across a range of areas. In podcast interviews, we will also be learning from pioneering NGOs that are using the law to fight back. The series is funded by the Baring Foundation.
We are looking for the views, stories and experiences of practitioners who see unlawful systemic decisions as part of their everyday work. Please share your views by emailing us at: charlotte.threipland@opendemocracy.net.
Our series, The Unlawful State, will be published here.
 
1     ADASS budget survey 2019, ADASS, June 2019, page 5. »
3     ADASS budget survey 2019, ibid, page 18. »
4     Local government funding: moving the conversation on, Local Government Association, July 2018, page 3. »

About the author(s)

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Charlotte Threipland works at openDemocracy as the editor of openJustice.