A STAGE director has won a landmark legal battle to keep her childhood home near Stourport in the family by having it disregarded in calculating her mother's care home costs.
Glen Walford, who is in her 70s, triumphed in the High Court after fighting a decision by Worcestershire County Council to charge the cost of caring for her mother Mary against the family's Sunnydene home in Astley Burf - in a case which raised legal issues never before considered by the courts.
The legal battle began after the council performed a u-turn following legal advice in March 2012. Miss Walford had originally been told the property's value would be ignored when calculating her widowed mother's care home charges after she moved out of the house she had lived in since the 1930s in November 2006, when she grew too frail to look after herself.
The value of someone's property is disregarded by councils in calculating care home costs if a close relative - such as a daughter - aged 60 or over continues to live there. Miss Walford has been challenging the decision since 2012 and yesterday High Court judge Mr Justice Supperstone ruled the council had misinterpreted the law.
Having launched her theatre career in 1962, Miss Walford, who stood to inherit Sunnydene on her mother's death, has spent her life travelling from place to place and has never owned a home of her own. She said she had always viewed the Astley Burf property as her real home and was going to retire there.
She told the court: "It has always been my intention to retire to Sunnydene, which is why I have only ever rented accommodation. I dearly wish to be able to keep a much-loved house in the family for my own continued use."
Her lawyers argued Sunnydene should not be treated as part of her mother's capital as it was Miss Walford's home and she herself was aged well over 60 when her mother had to go into care.
Council representatives, however - after initially agreeing with Miss Walford - later changed their minds, pointing out she had rented a studio flat in London since 1983 and her mother had enjoyed a single occupancy council tax discount.
They insisted "everything suggested Miss Walford was not a permanent resident" in the house when her mother checked into the care home and the property was therefore not exempt.
In upholding the stage director's judicial review challenge, however, the judge said the council had applied too tough a legal test. He ruled all Miss Walford needed was to show Sunnydene was her "only or main home" when her mother moved out.
Giving guidance for the future, he added: "A 'home' is a place to which a person has a degree of attachment both physical and emotional."
Parliament's motive for allowing the over 60s exemption was to guard against the "undesirable consequence" of people of that age group, who live with and care for close family members, losing their homes when residential care becomes the only option.
The judge ordered Worcestershire to reconsider its decision in light of his ruling.