A disabled woman from Islington, Valerie Garnham, has today lost her battle against the Secretary of State for Health that she should receive Direct Payments for the care she needs at home. Mrs Garnham is very disappointed with the result, but plans to appeal the decision of Mr Justice Silber that as an NHS patient she cannot have Direct Payments.
Valerie Garnham has lived with a progressive neuromuscular condition since birth, and a near fatal illness five years ago left her with the need for a permanent tracheotomy. She then became eligible for NHS Continuing Care and received Direct Payments for her healthcare needs from the PCT but paid through the Local Authority. Guidance published by the Health Secretary in October 2007 “The National Framework for NHS Continuing Care”led the local Islington PCT to inform Mrs Garnham that she could no longer continue to receive Direct Payments for this care and that henceforth it would be provided through an agency.
Individuals who are in receipt of “community care” services through their Local Authority have been entitled to receive Direct Payments since 1996. Indeed, Mrs Garnham was one of the first people in Islington to receive Direct Payments from her Local Authority, Islington Borough Council.
“This is a challenge to the policy of the Secretary of State for Health to deny Direct Payments to individuals who are receiving Continuing Care (Healthcare services), in order for them to manage their own care. It is a breach of their Human Rights and disempowering for the individual”
Frances Lipman, Solicitor, Disability Law Service
This case is being heard alongside Steven Harrison, who is also fighting for the right to manage his own care. Both will put forward the case to the Court that the Department of Health can lawfully pay direct payments to service users and that, in the light of the Human Rights Act, the legislation must be read so as to support their human rights under Article 8 of the European Convention on Human Rights (the right to a private and family life) and Article 14 (which prevents discrimination against a person with a disability).
“I felt it was very prejudiced and against my human rights. This stole all my autonomy in organising my own life. We received a letter completely out of the blue. It said as I was classed as needing ‘continuing care’ and due to recent Government changes the PCT could no longer provide Direct Payments as of next week. It was quite callous – you don’t want a letter to tell you something like that. I was very distressed.”
“I don’t look at myself as a useless cabbage sitting at home wasting away but this is how it made me feel. Is my life worth living if I’m going to stay in bed and wait for an agency nurse to turn up? We are … very proud that we actually employ five competent, fully-trained people. As well as the fact they cost much less than any commercial agency at a time of the importance of value for money.”