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The charity Age Concern has failed in a legal bid to step into the shoes of a pensioner who died before she could m...
The charity Age Concern has failed in a legal bid to step into the shoes of a pensioner who died before she could mount a High Court test case.

Despite 81-year-old Irene Johnson's death in September last year, Richard Bird, chairman of Age Concern's South Lakeland branch, argued he should be able to take her place in arguing the case over charges for residential care.

His counsel, Stephen Cragg, said the case raised human rights issues which could impact on the lives of a large number of elderly people.

However judge, Mr Justice Silber, today stopped the case in its tracks when he refused to allow Mr Bird to 'step into the shoes of Mrs Johnson' and pursue her jucial review challenge.

Commenting that the court is already 'overrun' with urgent cases, the judge said that If there were, as Age Concern argued, many living people affected by the same funding issue, there was no reason why one of them could not bring a similar claim.

Before she died, Mrs Johnson, who suffered from early dementia, launched the challenge, claiming she had been wrongly charged for her residential care and accommodation after she was compelled to leave her own home due to her deteriorating state.

Mrs Johnson, who had to move to the Holly Bank nursing hom in Cumbria from her own bungalow, took on the Department of Health over its refusal last April to take steps to amend the 1992 National Assistance Regulations.

Her lawyers argued the rules unfairly force councils to charge individuals for their accommodation in nursing homes where they have been subjected to 'guardianship orders' under the 1983 Mental Health Act, even where the individual has no wish to leave their home.

The charity's solicitor, Louise Ezeonyim, said the case had far-reaching implications for the thousands of elderly people suffering from dementia and other medical problems which compelled them to leave their homes and move into nursing care.

A guardianship order was issued in Mrs Johnson's case because it was judged that she could no longer cope on her own and needed to move into residential care.

Cumbria CC moved her to the nursing home, where she lived between November 2004 and March 2005, despite her insistence that she wished to stay put. In all, Mrs Johnson was charged£5,500 for her stint at Holly Bank.

Ms Ezeonyim said outside court that, whilst she was alive, Mrs Johnson felt the charge she had to pay was 'adding insult to injury' after being made to leave her bungalow.

'She felt that it wasn't right to charge her for the accommodation when she didn't even want to live there', the solicitor added.

'We're not against the guardianship order being made in the first place,' she explained. 'We're against the fact that it forces someone to leave somewhere and then charging her for that'.

Mrs Johnson was last year given permission to challenge the legality of the provisions but - because of her death and Age Concern's failure to step into her shoes today - the argument willhave to be run on another day by another claimant.


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