Southall Black Sisters provided specialist services to Asian and Afro-Caribbean women particularly in relation to issues arising from domestic violence. In June 2007 Ealing Council advised of its intention to withdraw funding for Southall Black Sisters and develop a single generic service for domestic violence for all women in the borough. The Council sought to justify its decision on the grounds of ‘equality’, ‘cohesion’ and ‘diversity’. Southall Black Sisters sought a judicial review of this requirement.
In his written judgment, Lord Justice Moses stated that Ealing Council had made fundamental errors when deciding to cut funding to SBS in favour of one generic service on domestic violence for the borough. He stated that the Council had acted unlawfully in a number of critical ways: It failed to carry out a full racial equality impact assessment before fixing on the policy of a generic service on domestic violence; It failed to consider measures to avoid the adverse impact that its policy would have on black and minority women as pointed out by SBS; It failed to appreciate that there is serious under-reporting of domestic violence amongst black and minority women; It misconstrued the Race Relations Act – in particular the need for positive action and the right to retain a name which announces the specialist nature of the organisation and it misconstrued the principle of cohesion by assuming that funding specialist projects will undercut cohesion. The order of the Court was that the decision was quashed.
The London Borough of Harrow proposed restricting the provision of adult care services to people with critical needs only.
The local authority did carry out a consultation and an equality impact assessment which identified that the proposal would have a differential impact on particular groups of disabled people. The report to the Council's Cabinet reported on the consultation and the equality impact assessment however the clamants asserted that the decision-making process did not comply with the Defendant's Disability Equality Duty under Section 49A Disability Discrimination Act 1995
In his judgement Judge Mackie noted "The effect of the decision was to deprive those in substantial as opposed to critical need, many of whom are disabled, of a service of which they were, by definition, in need. In its extensive process of consultation the Council had regard to the position of disabled users in the ways I have mentioned. I recognise that in the indirect respects which Mr McCarthy identifies the importance of these matters may have been drawn to the attention of the decision-takers on or before 25 July. I recognise that the general duty on the Council under Section 49A is only to have "due regard" to the listed considerations (but as I have mentioned the Code states that this requires more than simply giving consideration to the issue of disability). These are important duties nonetheless including the need to promote equality of opportunity and to take account of disabilities even where that involves treating the disabled more favourably than others. There is no evidence that this legal duty and its implications were drawn to the attention of the decision-takers who should have been informed not just of the disabled as an issue but of the particular obligations which the law imposes. It was not enough to refer obliquely in the attached summary to" potential conflict with the DDA"- this would not give a busy councillor any idea of the serious duties imposed upon the Council by the Act. The Council could not weigh matters properly in the balance without being aware of what its duties were."
Judge Mackie QC ruled that the decision taken on 25 July 2007 was unlawful in the sense that it was taken without the decision-makers having had sufficiently drawn to their attention the seriousness and extent of the duties which the Defendant owed under the Disability Discrimination Act 2005