Anger that £1m repayments to disabled people are 'credit notes'
- Credit: Philip Williams
Campaigners for disabled people have hit out at Norfolk County Council's method of repaying £1m after a judicial review ruled it had acted unlawfully.
The outcome of a judicial review means Norfolk County Council will have to repay about £1m to some 3,200 disabled people who had seen their care costs increased because of its decision to change the way they were calculated.
A legal challenge launched by a young woman with Down's Syndrome went to the High Court - and a judge ruled the council had acted unlawfully and had discriminated against them in an unforeseen and unintended way.
The Conservative-controlled cabinet agreed on Tuesday to bring in interim measures to revert to the £165 a week Minimum Income Guarantee level and to use discretion not to take into account any Enhanced Personal Independent Payment.
That will be backdated to July 2019, which means about £1m will be paid back to the disabled people affected.
But disabled people and their parents have criticised the way the council will make the repayment - with no cash refund, but money put into the accounts they have with the council.
Council leader Andrew Proctor said it was the "best and speediest" way to get the payments to people.
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But a spokesperson for the Disability Network Norfolk Group said: "Norfolk County Council will ‘refund’ the money into care accounts administrated by the council and it will take case by case decisions on whether the money can be withdrawn.
"How is this a genuine repayment? The money belongs to the disabled person not the council."
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Concerns over the crediting of accounts were also raised by independent county councillor Sandra Squire and Labour group leader Steve Morphew.
Mrs Squire has written to the council leader calling for a proper refund, rather than it being paid into care accounts.
She said: "From what I’ve been told, this isn’t so much of a refund, it is essentially more of a credit note.
"People have suffered hardship as a result of these charges and if it is refunded into their accounts, they can only spend it on care.
"This is wholly unacceptable and this decision needs to be reversed."
Mr Proctor said it would be discussed at a meeting with the Disability Network Norfolk Group organised for Friday.
He said: "The most important aspect is to share our proposed timetable for repayments and how we communicate it to service users, as well as demonstrating that we will make these as soon as practicably possible.
"This will also be the start of how we will engage with affected people for a longer term solution.”