CONSULTATIONS on plans to cut day and respite services for adults with learning difficulties in Devon have been halted after a local charity threatened legal action.
The proposals by Devon County Council involve closing most of its disability day centres, as well as one of its respite centres in either Exeter or Honiton.
It forms part of an overall package of cuts that would save Devon more than £30 million from its adult care budget, with the council previously saying it needs to find total savings of £45 million so it can prioritise spending on what it is legally obliged to provide.
But after concerns were raised about the plan to cut day and respite services, including from the Exeter & District Mencap Society, the council now says it is halting the related consultations so it can 'review all comments in detail'.
Mencap recently called for them to be stopped, claiming they were 'seriously flawed' and could be unlawful. It threatened to launch a judicial review.
Trustee of the charity Bob Gaiger previously said: 'We are extremely concerned that the consultations appear to be designed to justify the proposals to cut in-house services,' adding they 'provide no evidence to support the decisions that Devon County Council have taken so far.'
Confirming the consultations had been halted, a council spokesperson said: 'We have received detailed correspondence from Mencap alongside feedback from staff, unions and carers in response to our proposals for in-house day services and respite services.
'We greatly value our ongoing working relationship with all of our stakeholders and believes it is only right, due to this and the volume of concerns, that time is taken to listen and evaluate.
'We have therefore agreed to halt our current public consultations regarding day services and respite services, so we can review all comments in detail.
'We thank Mencap for their comments, which, alongside the responses received so far from our current consultation, will help inform the content of any future proposal to our services.'
In response, Mr Gaiger said: 'We welcome the decision by Devon County Council to call a halt to the consultations and hope that a review of the comments and representations they have received so far lead them to cancel their distressing proposals for adult day and respite services.
'We value our working relationship with the council but would like to emphasise that we are ready to proceed to judicial review if the need arises.'
Devon is also currently consulting on other proposed cuts to its adult care services, including to scrap a £1.5 million contribution towards homelessness prevention and to close its North Devon link mental health and wellbeing service.
Devon’s cabinet member for adult social care Cllr James McInnes (Conservative, Hatherleigh & Chagford) recently told a scrutiny meeting that 'these are very difficult decisions.'
He added: 'It’s really important … we make a decision to make sure we are supporting the most vulnerable people in Devon and that Devon County Council is sustainable for the future.'