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Sefton: Is there a Duty of Care for the Elderly?

Jean Gould, Project Solicitor for the Public Law Project, describes the background to the Sefton case and examines what the judgment means.

1 May 1997

Sefton
Is there a Duty of Care for the Elderly

Jean Gould, Project Solicitor for the Public Law Project, describes the background to the Sefton case and examines what the judgment means.

The Sefton judgment in the High Court on 26 March was greeted with cries of horror from across the political spectrum. It seems to have been a decision that no-one expected or wanted. The chair of Sefton Social Services Committee reiterated the response of the director of Gloucestershire Social Services Department to the House of Lords majority decision in that case, that it was a case with no winners.

In the judicial review brought by Help the Aged and two individual older people in residential care, R v Sefton Metropolitan Borough Council ex parte Help the Aged and others, Jowitt J effectively ruled that a local authority has no duty to arrange residential care for anyone with the means to pay for it themselves, thus depriving the charging regulatio...

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