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Highland Council hits out at approach of Scottish Government to form a new National Care Service

By Scott Maclennan

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Mental health bulb word cloud, health concept
Mental health bulb word cloud, health concept

Ambitious Scottish Government plans for a National Care Service in the mould of the NHS have received a frosty welcome from local councils after they were given just over two months to provide a consultation response.

After an independent review of adult social care, the government surprised many by suggesting the proposed new care service could also include “children and young people, community justice, alcohol and drug services, and social work”.

Highland Council immediately brought an urgent paper on the issue to its health, social care and wellbeing committee calling for an extension to the deadline of the wide-ranging policy and for the issues to be considered at a full council meeting.

The local authority indicated that it too was dissatisfied with the approach as there had been no warning and leaves too little time to go through the complex implications of an all-encompassing national care service.

The executive chief officer for performance and governance Kate Lackie said the review generated “widespread support” and “some concern about how the proposed national care service would operate” since it was published in February.

She said: “A consultation on the detailed review’s proposals has been anticipated since then but what has come forward is much broader than previously signalled and includes the impact such proposals would have upon children’s services, justice services, healthcare, social work and social care, nursing, prisons, alcohol and drug services, and mental health services.

“There had been no indication to councils directly, or through Cosla, that the Scottish Government was intending to broaden the review of adult care services in this way.”

Cosla, the umbrella group that represents all Scotland’s local authorities, could scarcely have been more critical of the government’s plans with regard to president Councillor Alison Evison labelling it an open attack on local government.

She said: “The consultation launched cuts through the heart of governance in Scotland – not only does it have serious implications for local government – it is an attack on localism and on the rights of local people to make decisions democratically for their place.

“It once again brings a centralising approach to how decisions which should be taken locally are made.

“We welcomed large parts of the Independent Review of Adult Social Care and have been keen to get on and deliver, however the vision this consultation sets out goes beyond the Feeley Report [the independent review].

“It isn’t evidence based and will take years to deliver – years when we should be making improvements which will benefit all users of social care services.

“It is deeply concerning that the consultation is also a considerable departure from the recommendations of the independent review set up to look at Adult Social Care.

“The lack of prior engagement with local government is not new – the partnership between the Scottish Government and local government which we have been seeking to build, continues to elude us in practice and it is the communities we serve who are losing out.

“Let’s be clear – this is not a ‘thinly veiled’ attack on local government – there is no subtlety to it and, sadly for local communities, the ‘onion peel’ of local government services by this government shows no sign of letting up.”

However the Scottish Government said its proposals go further than the report recommendations to create a comprehensive care service.

Minister for social care Kevin Stewart said: “What we are now proposing is the biggest public sector reform for decades, since the creation of the National Health Service.

“I am committed to implementing the recommendations of the independent review and staying true to the spirit of that report by building a system with human rights at the heart of it.

“The review recommended the creation of a National Care Service, with Scottish Ministers being accountable for adult social care support. I believe, however, that it is right for this consultation to look beyond simply the creation of a national service for adult social care.

“The ambition of this government is to go much further, and to create a comprehensive community health and social care service that supports people of all ages. We are also committed to ensuring there is strong local accountability in the system.”

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