Disabled people could be confined to care homes against their will due to a policy change planned by Barnet Council, Labour has warned.

The council’s plan to stop offering community-based care “by default” risks turning the clock back decades to a time when disabled people with high support needs were placed in out-of-town institutions, according to opposition councillors.

Recent decades have seen a shift to “care in the community” for disabled people, allowing them to stay in their own homes or with family members with the support of social workers.

But the austerity-hit council could stop offering this as the default option for disabled people in a bid to save £424,000 in 2019-20.

Paul Baldwin, chairman of charity Inclusion Barnet, has written to council leader Cllr Richard Cornelius warning the move could violate disabled people’s human rights.

His letter states: “We would urge you to concentrate your savings on areas which do not have a detrimental effect on the human rights of some of the most vulnerable members of society.”

Barnet Council’s own equalities impact assessment warns the change could have a “potential negative impact” on disabled people.

The council says it does not need to hold a public consultation on the move but it will engage with individuals who will be affected.

Labour councillors raised concerns about the proposals at a meeting of the adults and safeguarding committee on March 18.

Labour lead on adults and safeguarding Cllr Reema Patel said: “Due to austerity, there is more incentive for councils to offer people with high support needs residential placements because it is cheaper.

“However, this runs counter to established principles around disabled people’s rights – principles that support the right to independent living, choice, agency and control.

“This measure predicts a cut of £424,000. It assumes that 50 per cent of new high cost placements will be replaced with residential care – which might suggest a target.

“Given that in the last financial year 85 new high-cost placements were awarded, that would be 40 people going into residential care when they may have otherwise stayed at home.”

Labour has also raised concerns that £1.5 million – ten per cent of the council’s adult social care staffing budget – could have to be cut over the next five years.

Opposition councillors warn social workers “will have to do even more work for less pay” as vacancies are left unfilled in a bid to save money.

They are calling on the council to lobby central government for more social care funding.

Councillor Sachin Rajput, chair of Barnet Council’s adults and safeguarding committee, said: “We remain firmly committed to delivering high standards of care and support for those in need across Barnet, particularly our most vulnerable residents.

“We will carefully consider the range of accommodation options available to meet the particular needs of our residents, whilst also considering the limited resources that will be available to us as a council.

“Every person will be assessed individually, with their views and the impact on their wellbeing carefully considered.

“For the small number of people that will be offered a residential care placement, satisfaction levels and outcomes will be carefully monitored.

“Barnet Council will continue to comply with all of its duties under the Care Act (2014).”