Charity launches legal challenge over proposed Devon adult social care cutbacks – which include closing respite hub in Honiton or Exeter

A charity has launched a legal challenge over plans to severely cut adult day and respite services in Devon – which include shutting a hub in Exeter or Honiton.

Exeter and District Mencap Society has called on Devon County Council (DCC) to halt a public consultation over proposals to save £30million from its adult care budget.

The cause has served a 27-page ‘letter before claim’ stating that a judicial review will be started unless the authority pauses plans and ‘immediate steps’ are steps are taken to retain staff at the services.

DCC is consulting on proposals to close all but three of its learning disability day services – and then reducing the remaining centres’ opening times from five to three days a week.

It also plans to close respite services at either New Treetops, in Exeter, or Pine Park House, in Honiton, and cap in-house nights to a maximum of 52 per user.

Exeter and District Mencap Society supports local families who have a child or adult with a learning disability.

It says changes ‘would affect disabled persons in Exeter and across Devon currently receiving these services and also those who may look to receive them in the future’.

The cause added that DCC told parents and carers of adults with learning disabilities of proposed ‘significant reductions’ in January.

Charity trustee Bob Gaiger said: “We are extremely concerned that the consultations appear to be designed to justify the proposals to cut in-house services.

“The consultations and proposals are seriously flawed and provide no evidence to support the decisions that Devon County Council have taken so far.

“Parents and carers are being asked to complete the consultation documents and make impossible choices without any supporting information to help them in their decisions.”

The ‘letter before claim’ challenges whether DCC’s is carrying out its public consultation ‘in a lawful manner’ and whether it complies with the Equality Act 2010.

DCC says it will be considering its response.

The public consultations began on February 22 and runs until April 8.

DCC said when setting its budget in February that it faced ‘a huge financial challenge’ and ‘must get the most of every pound’ spent.

The average Band D householder is now forking out an extra £1.49 a week for the authority’s slice of their overall council tax bills.

On the £30million of savings earmarked from its adult social care provision, the council said it was spending a ‘disproportionately high level’ on related buildings.

Councillor James McInnes, cabinet member with responsibility for adult social care, said previously: “These are the difficult decisions a council has to make when faced with changing needs of a population and having to save millions of pounds from its budget.

“We do not for one moment underestimate the impact that these proposals could have on some of the people we support and their families and carers.

He added: “We remain fully committed to supporting vulnerable adults with disabilities in the best way that we can.

“We’ll make no decisions until after the consultation and until after we’ve had time to fully digest what people tell us.”

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