26 May 2015

Greens slam $400k legal bill fighting carer

12:44 pm on 26 May 2015

The Ministry of Health has spent more than $400,000 fighting against a mother's claim for funding to care for her adult disabled son

Figures obtained by the Green Party have revealed most of the money was spent on legal fees for in-house lawyers.

Catherine Delahunty.

Catherine Delahunty. Photo: SUPPLIED

For 10 years, Margaret Spencer has been locked in a legal battle to get state support to care for her 46-year-old son, who has Down Syndrome.

She has taken her case to the High Court, the Court of Appeal and the Human Rights Review Tribunal - winning every time.

Catherine Delahunty, Green Party spokesperson on human rights, said the ministry had its priorities wrong.

"We try to teach our kids 'negotiate, don't immediately try and hit people with a big stick'. Well this is the big stick of the state, an unnecessary big stick that is costing everybody.

"It seems that the Ministry of Health have not learned their lesson and it's only been the courts that have actually stopped their punitive approach".

Ms Delahunty said the $400,000 could have gone to Ms Spencer.

"The Ministry of Health has a sick culture of trying to avoid an issue when clearly it needed to be resolved a long time ago, and they'd rather spend money on court cases...than actually be fair to a family carer and to her adult son".

The Ministry is considering the implications of the Court of Appeal ruling, and has the option of taking the case to the Supreme Court.

Breakdown of spending

$403,687 - total cost to the Ministry for Margaret Spencer's case to date.

$32,211 - total cost to the Ministry for outside counsel.

$391,539 - total cost to the Ministry for lawyers' fees.

Source: Details released by the Health Minister to the Green Party under the Official Information Act.

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