The Scottish Government's proposals for a National Care Service will mean diverting urgently needed funding for social care towards disruptive structural reform rather than improving services, COSLA said today (Tuesday).
The draft legislation currently being considered by the Scottish Parliament would see the removal of local democratic accountability for care and the centralisation of decision-making to Ministers, and care boards appointed and directed by Ministers.
In May 2022, the Scottish Government announced ‘more than £840 million’ of additional funding for Scotland’s social care system, as part of its Resource Spending Review (its spending plans for the parliamentary term).
However, official Government estimates accompanying the draft legislation show that running a National Care Service would cost up to £500 million each year, representing 60% of the additional funding allocated for social care. This recurring funding is in addition to £250 million expected to be spent setting up the new organisation over the next four years.
Council Leaders believe this additional money would be better spent improving access to front-line care services and helping the care sector cope with the cost-of-living crisis, spiralling energy costs and long-term recruitment pressures.
The draft legislation comes following the 2021 Independent Review of Adult Social Care, commissioned by Ministers which suggested a number of improvements to the provision of services. COSLA estimated that the recommendations in the review would cost £1.5 billion to implement, far more than any plans currently outlined by the Scottish Government.
COSLA’s Health and Social Care Spokesperson, Councillor Paul Kelly, commented: “Our efforts should be on improvements that can and should be made to care services now rather than on costly and disruptive structural change.
“At a time when social care services are under extreme pressure, funding should be directed at addressing the many challenges the sector faces rather than the priority being the complex, time-consuming and unsettling transfer of Local Government staff and assets into a centralised structure.
“We know that many of the issues within the current care system are a result of years of cuts to Local Government and underfunding. Despite this, staff in social care have worked extremely hard to provide care to the increasing number of people who need it in our communities We know that this growing demand and the growing complexity of need mean that all of our resources should be focussed on addressing these issues.
“The Scottish Government’s National Care Service proposals, as they currently stand, fail to offer the investment needed to help make improvements and ease pressure on staff, services and improve the experience of service users.”
Councillor Kelly has also made a short statement on camera, which can be found on YouTube here.