On appeal from  CSHI 51
This appeal is concerned with the provision of community care services to disabled persons pursuant to the Social Work (Scotland) Act 1968 (the “1968 Act”) and the charges made for such provision.
The appellant is acting as guardian for her son. At the time of the hearing, Mr. McCue was 27 years old. He has Down’s Syndrome and lives with his parents. He is disabled within the meaning of section 6 of the Equality Act. As a result of his disability, he is provided with community care services by the respondent, Glasgow City Council (the “Council”). Under section 87 of the 1968 Act, the Council has assessed Mr McCue’s means and levied charges for the community care services provided to him, taking into account the appellant’s means and making corresponding deductions in the amount charged. Over several years, the appellant made representations to the Council that higher amounts should be deducted, but the Council was not persuaded by these representations. In these proceedings, the appellant claims that by failing to make greater deductions for disability related expenditure, the Council unlawfully discriminated against Mr McCue on grounds of his disability, within the meaning of section 15 of the Equality Act. She also submits that the Council acted in breach of its duty under section 20 of the Equality Act, which requires it to make reasonable adjustments to take account of Mr McCue’s disability. The claim was dismissed at first instance and the Inner House of the Court of Session dismissed the appellant’s appeal. The appellant now appeals to the Supreme Court.
Appeal unanimously dismiss.
The operation of section 87 of the 1968 Act: levying of a charge for community care services
Where a local authority provides services under the 1968 Act, then by virtue of section 87(1) it has a discretion whether to charge the recipient for those services and at what level any charge should be set. By virtue of section 87(1A), if the individual satisfies the authority that his means “are sufficient for it to be reasonably practicable for him to pay” the amount which would otherwise be due, then the authority may not charge more “than it appears to them that it is practicable for him to pay”. The onus is on the individual to satisfy the local authority that his means are insufficient to the extent that it is not “practicable” for him to pay.
The relevant question under section 87 is whether the Council is satisfied that Mr McCue has shown that his means are insufficient for it to be reasonably practicable for him to pay without deductions.
In relation to the disputed items of disability related expenditure, the Council’s assessment under section 87 was that they had not affected his means in such a way that would reduce what was practicable for him to pay by way of charges. The Council had properly applied sections 87(1) and (1A).
Section 15 of the Equality Act: unfavorable treatment
The principal question here was whether the Council had treated Mr McCue “unfavorably” because of something arising in consequence of his disability, within the meaning of section 15(1)(a) of the Equality Act.
A comparison is required between two states of affairs: what has happened to the complainant in fact and what would have happened to him without the treatment alleged to have been unfavorable.
The relevant treatment in the present case was the Council’s evaluation as to what deductions should be made in calculating Mr McCue’s available means and what sum it was practicable for Mr McCue to pay.
The Council charges both disabled and non-disabled persons according to the same basic scheme applying s 87. The Council extends this general approach in a way which is more generous to disabled persons to take account of disability related expenditure, being costs over and above those which non-disabled persons must bear. The Council’s approach could therefore not be said to be unfavorable to disabled persons: in fact, it is favorable to them, since it allows for a greater range of possible deductions to be made in calculating their available means. The true nature of the appellant’s complaint was therefore that the treatment of Mr. McCue was not generous enough, even though it benefits persons with disabilities; this is not a proper ground of complaint under section 15.
Section 20 of the Equality Act: duty to make reasonable adjustments
The appellant needed to show that a provision, criterion or practice of the Council put Mr McCue at a substantial disadvantage in relation to a relevant matter in comparison with persons who are not disabled.
The court was willing to infer that the Council had adopted a practice according to which expenditures were rejected if they did not relate to disability; or if, while relating to disability, a person receives a benefit to meet the cost in question; or if the expenditure represents discretionary spending and is not necessary to meet the disabled person’s needs. The practice does not put a disabled person at a disadvantage in comparison with non-disabled people for the simple reason that the practice only applies to disabled people. It does not allow for any comparison to be made with the treatment of non-disabled persons, so there is no scope for the application of section 20(3).
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