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COURT DISMISSES APPEAL AGAINST POWYS DISABILITY CARE CHARGES

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Appeal court judges have dismissed the case of Jenny Hambidge, who accused Powys CC of 'taxing disability' after he...
Appeal court judges have dismissed the case of Jenny Hambidge, who accused Powys CC of 'taxing disability' after her home care charges were tripled, has lost her case.

Mrs Hambidge, who has multiple sclerosis, attacked as 'discriminatory and perverse' the council's decision to increase its charges for the 16 hours care she receives in her own home each week from£10.50 to£32.70.

But the appeal court dismissed her appeal against a High Court decision last year that the council's charging policy is lawful.

Mrs Hambidge, a mother-of-four who needs round the clock care, said later: 'Naturally I'm very disappointed at having lost my case, but I feel it was very important for me to take this issue as far as I have.

'This case will make people aware of the injustice of charging for community care services and I still believe the council's policy is wrong. To make a charge on community care services is a tax on disability.'

But Powys spokesman Jeremy Patterson said: 'We are very pleased the court has found that the council acted in a perfectly reasonable manner and did not discriminate in any way against Mrs Hambidge.

'The council always has great sympathy and consideration for any person with disabilities.'

Mrs Hambidge's counsel, Richard Gordon QC, earlier told the court she needs 'more or less continuous care day and night' and receives the maximum level of disability living allowance benefit which is only paid to the most seriously disabled people.

The council's policy meant that those receiving disability living allowance were being made to pay for community care services, whereas no charge was being levied on service users who, although less disabled, subsist on income support alone.

Accusing the council of 'unlawful discrimination' under the terms of the 1995 Disability Discrimination Act, Mr Gordon told the court: 'More severely disabled people are being less favourably treated than the less severely disabled.'

But Clive Lewis, representing Powys, argued the charges were levied on the basis of the amount each service user could afford to pay, and the council had been entitled to take into account Mrs Hambidge's receipt of disablility living allowance.

The council's policy - formulated in response to severe spending constraints - acknowledged that no service user would be required to pay 'more than is reasonably practicable', and that essential services would always be maintained.

Service users also have the right to ask for a review if they believe they are being charged too much.

In his judgement, Lord Justice Laws said it was Mrs Hambidge's case that the only reason she had more money than some other service users was because of disability living allowance, which she received specifically because of her disability.

It was her argument that 'the more disabled person pays, whereas the less disabled person does not'.

But the judge, sitting with Lord Justice Henry and Lord Justice Aldous, said the council's charging regime was a form of means testing, based 'on the possession or otherwise of resources', rather than differing levels of disability.

'My view is that the terms of the 1995 Disability Discrimination Act do not bite on the facts of this case at all.'

Mrs Hambidge, of Llandrindod Wells, who was legally aided, had her appeal dismissed. She did not seek leave to appeal further to the house of lords.

Powys CC was awarded its legal costs against the Legal Aid Board.

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