Family of severely autistic teenager wins three-year legal battle against council

The family of a severely autistic teenager has won a High Court appeal to force East Riding of Yorkshire Council to provide support for him once he turns 18.

The judgement has helped clarify the law underlining that councils must not refuse to provide support for some disabled children once they turn 18.

The teenager, who cannot be named for legal reasons, has severe autism and severe hyperactivity disorder. East Riding of Yorkshire Council had claimed that because he lived in a specialist residential school funded by the education department of the council, he was not deemed to be “looked after”, meaning he would not be eligible to the same support he would have been if he had been in the care system.

Ed Duff of the Children’s Legal Centre, which acted as the family’s solicitors, said: “Children get looked-after status when they have either been in care or voluntarily accommodated by a local authority. The status entitles them to a number of benefits when they turn 18, such as housing, medical care and support until they are 21, or 24 if in education.

“Local authorities can’t just wash their hands of the young person once they turn 18. Unfortunately, some authorities don’t like these laws and seek to avoid them as they involve time and money. It has taken three years, two High Court dismissals and two Court of Appeal applications for the family to put this right. This is a tremendous relief to his family, and we are delighted to have helped them secure their son’s care once he turns 18.”

In his judgement, Lord Justice Rix claimed the council had taken an “irrational and unlawful” view of the law in illegally withdrawing looked-after status just because another part of the same council agreed to pay.

He said: “They do not appear to have asked themselves what their continuing obligations under the Children Act might have been, but simply assumed that respite care was all that concerned them under that act, and that the rest was education and something different.”