A National Care Service (NCS) must and should be locally delivered, democratically accountable and free at the point of need. The Scottish Government should not consider breaking up the Local Government workforce as by doing so would have a negative and damaging impact on the cohesion and effectiveness of it but should instead ensure proper funding is provided - COSLA and the Local Government Workforce Trade unions said in a joint statement on the proposed National Care Service today:
"As we move towards a decision by Scottish Ministers on the scope of the proposed National Care Service, we are of the view that should the NCS have the scope set out in the recent public consultation there would be a negative and damaging impact on the cohesion and effectiveness of the Local Government workforce – and on the communities we serve. We strongly believe that the Local Government workforce delivering social care and professional social work services should remain with councils regardless of the scope of the NCS. The work of councils reaches into all aspects of our lives, including housing, education, environment, employment, social support, all of which impact on improved health and wellbeing.
There is an opportunity now to address the problems of social care and improve the experience of those who rely on the service without waiting for extensive and costly structural change. We believe that the improvements and investment needed in our social care system, which are the consequence of long-term underinvestment, simply cannot wait for the proposed creation of a National Care Service. There is work to do to particularly on long term issues, including pay, terms and conditions, and career progression and development. We will continue to work closely together to address these issues.
The knowledge and experience that exists in the local authority workforce, is a huge part of the solution to addressing the challenges in our social care system. The Scottish Government, Local Government and Trade Unions must work together to take forward reform of the social care system now.
For the sake of those individuals and families who need our support waiting four or five years for the establishment of the NCS is not an option. We cannot and should not break up the Local Government workforce, particularly at this critical time in our recovery from the pandemic. Instead we should build on the knowledge, skills and expertise in local areas to ensure that we can deliver a world class, properly resourced system which delivers for our communities.”
Cllr Gail Macgregor, COSLA Spokesperson for Resources, said: “In releasing this joint statement with our Trade Union colleagues it sends an important message to Scottish Government that they cannot and should not overlook the impact the proposal a National Care Service has on the whole of the local government workforce. Not only is it a direct challenge to the essential role of local democratic process, it fails to recognise the interconnections between our essential services. By continuing to separate our workforce we continue to hamper our ability to deliver truly preventative services and will spend money on structural reform that will do little or nothing to enhance the services so many in our communities require.”
Johanna Baxter, UNISON Scotland Head of Local Government said: "The pandemic has highlighted the urgent need to address issues in social care. Many of those could and should be addressed now through investment which recognises, respects and rewards the vital work and expertise of those who deliver this service.
We cannot and should not break up the Local Government workforce, particularly at this critical time in our recovery from the pandemic. This is a community service, delivered in the community, and our local councils are uniquely placed to link it with other community-based services that support health and well-being such as housing, education, leisure, culture, families and neighbours. Centralising this under a national structure risks weakening these community connections, weakening democratic accountability and creating significant disruption costs.”
Wendy Dunsmore, Regional Officer, Unite the Union said: “Unite has a number of major concerns over the apparent direction of travel for the new National Care Service. A critical issue for us which needs to be resolved at the outset is that the National Care Service needs to be democratically accountable and delivered locally for the benefit of communities, workers and service users.
Absolutely central to this approach is the current workforce involved in providing social care services remaining within the local government framework. Any plans to the contrary would significantly weaken local accountability and expertise. It would severely compromise the integrity of the new service. The focus of the proposals should be on establishing a properly funded and publicly owned National Care Service with the direct input of trade unions and local government. For Unite this must also include a serious plan to establish collective bargaining in all areas of social care services including the Third sector and private sector.”