North East could be left with £2m bill after supreme court judgement

Supreme Court case means the threshold is lower to apply to detain mentally vulnerable person under the Mental Capacity Act

Lewis Arnold Former council leader Lord Beecham at Newcastle Civic Centre
Former council leader Lord Beecham at Newcastle Civic Centre

A key legal ruling on the care of mentally vulnerable people could leave under-pressure councils with a £2m-a-year bill.

A Supreme Court judgement means the threshold is now lower for care homes and hospitals to apply to detain a person under the Mental Capacity Act, and politicians say councils need more cash to cope.

Labour peer Jeremy Beecham says the Government must make cash available as soon as possible as councils’ budgets are already buckling under the strain of austerity.

It is thought all local authorities are set to see a ten-fold increase in the number of applications to detain mentally vulnerable people.

The Local Government Association and councils from the region have written to Mark Harper, minister for disabled people, to ask for more money.

Lord Beecham said: “We need to know what steps the Government is taking to assist local authorities to deal with the consequences of the Supreme Court’s judgements in relation to deprivation of liberty, given that the estimated cost of compliance to Newcastle City Council alone is estimated at £2m per annum.

“If we have to follow the Court ruling- and the Government is apparently considering the position- councils must receive additional funding to meet the substantial costs involved.”

Ukip MEP Jonathan Arnott says the Government must provide the cash to under-pressure councils but he believes the legislation should first be reviewed.

He said: “The 2005 Mental Capacity Act was a badly-drafted piece of legislation. It led to the creation of the Court of Protection, which lacks many of the fundamental freedoms associated with traditional British law.

“People (who have committed no crime) should not be deprived of their liberty or freedom to manage their own affairs except in the most extreme of circumstances.

“We desperately need a review of the legislation, and a system which doesn’t end up - however unintentionally - exploiting the very people that it is intended to protect.

“The mistake made by our Westminster politicians will end up costing the country a lot of money, but it’s vital that funding is made available to fix the mess that has been created. We’re talking about people’s lives here.”

A spokesman for Newcastle City Council said: “This judgement will mean a significant extra cost for all councils, not just Newcastle, and it is something we must now include in our financial planning for 14/15 and for the foreseeable future.

“A request for additional funding has been made to the relevant minister, with letters from both the Local Government Association and the Association of Directors of Adult Social Services.

“Councils must comply with the law but this brings additional pressure at a time of reduced resources, particularly for councils in the north east.“

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