A final decision on a controversial proposal to merge two-day services for vulnerable people in Renfrewshire is set to be delayed amid the threat of a legal challenge.

It acts as a temporary reprieve for carers who have contested the suggested amalgamation of the Mirin and Milldale centres for adults with learning disabilities at every turn since the idea was put forward in November.

The fight has been taken to the Court of Session after Govan Law Centre (GLC) said it has accepted instruction from a service user of Milldale to challenge its “proposed closure” – a potential consequence of combining the two – and a petition for judicial review has been lodged.

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As a result, the integration joint board (IJB) – the body which oversees Renfrewshire Health and Social Care Partnership (HSCP) – is expected to slam the brakes on the cost-cutting measure so legal advice can be taken.

Councillor Iain McMillan, Labour group leader and a member of the board, said: “This is how serious people are taking this issue, that they are prepared to go down the legal route.

“It just shows you how big an issue it is. They’ve obviously sought advice and Govan Law Centre has taken it up.

“Far be it for me to get involved in the legal aspects of it, but it just shows you how passionate these people are about this whole issue that they’re prepared to go down that road.”

Judicial review is a type of court proceeding in which a judge reviews the lawfulness of a decision or action taken by a public body.

Earlier this month, GLC, a charity which uses the law to challenge discrimination, said the petition was put forward against Renfrewshire Council as the first respondent and the IJB as the second respondent.

While it is a partnership between the council and NHS Greater Glasgow and Clyde, the IJB is ultimately its own separate entity.

At the end of last month, the council called on the HSCP to stop its review and proposals for both the adult day and Flexicare services but it has made its stance clear that it has “no role” in the decision-making process for this issue.

In a statement on March 5, GLC claimed: “On November 24, 2023, the second respondent agreed to: ‘Combine Mirin and Milldale: merge the Mirin and Milldale services, which will support the evolution of services towards a community delivery outreach model whilst maintaining a building-based provision strand. The revised service would focus on eligibility only for people who have family-based support, with a flexible, personalised approach for people who have supported living care packages.'”

GLC then outlined that the petitioner was challenging the respondents on a number of grounds relating to the Equality Act 2010.

However, importantly, the outcome of the IJB on Friday, November 24, was to progress to an options appraisal and impact assessment, including a period of stakeholder engagement. A final decision was then to be made on Friday, March 22, but this is now set to be paused because of the legal challenge.

Despite this, carers, who protested outside Renfrewshire House in January, are expected to make their voices heard once again at the building in Cotton Street before the meeting starts at the end of the week.

Parents, including Helen McAleer, whose 50-year-old daughter Amanda attends Milldale, have expressed serious concern over the engagement process. In December, she described it as an “absolute mess”.

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Earlier this month, Helen praised her peers for finding a “burst of energy” to stand up and fight the proposed merger. “They’ve taken time out of their lives, which they don’t have, and they’ve spoken up for their adult children who can’t speak for themselves,” she said at the time.

Calculations have suggested an amalgamation would save around £458,000 – a fraction of a funding gap in the region of £15 million for 2024-25.

This week, an IJB spokesperson said: “The proposal to merge the Mirin and Milldale day services was considered by the IJB in November 2023 – and approval was provided for further assessment to be undertaken, alongside stakeholder engagement and the development of an options appraisal and EQIA.

“This work has been undertaken, however a petition for a judicial review of the IJB’s decision in November 2023 was recently lodged with the Court of Session, on March 4.

“As such, at its meeting on March 22 it will be proposed that further consideration of this option will be paused as the IJB will require legal advice on the content of the judicial review.”

A council spokesperson said: “We are aware of a legal application lodged and will defend our position as required.

“A motion was approved at the recent full council meeting calling on Renfrewshire HSCP to stop its current review and proposals for adult day and Flexicare services.

“This decision will be made by the integration joint board and the council has no role in the decision-making process on this matter.”

The petition will need to satisfy the court’s test for permission to proceed further.