SOCIAL CARE: Council says no to proposal for a national care service

By Aileen MacLennan

A national care service, as proposed by the Scottish Government, is not the solution to social care service challenges, especially for rural communities, according to  Argyll and Bute Council, which covers Helensburgh, Cardross and the Lochside.

They will will submit their views on this contentious matter to the Scottish Government’s national consultation.

The council convened a special full Council meeting today (Thursday 28 October) to consider proposals for creating a national care service for Scotland.

The consultation covers themes including improvement, access to care and support, and residential care charges.

Leader of Argyll and Bute Council, Councillor Robin Currie, right,  said:  “People use social care services at very difficult, vulnerable times in their life. It’s vital therefore that any changes made are the right ones. We welcome the focus on improving social care support for anyone who needs it, and the opportunity to get involved in developing services for the future.

“However, we have significant concerns about the proposals and what they could mean for Argyll and Bute.

“For example, more consideration needs to be given to their impact on rural and remote communities like those of Argyll and Bute – delivering services in the urban, central belt of Scotland can be very different to delivering them on islands and to dispersed communities. Services based on local knowledge will better meet local need.

The changes proposed would cost a lot of money – there needs to be clarity on investment available for social care services.

These proposals have the potential to be the most significant public sector reform in Scotland for decades – given councils’ knowledge of their area’s needs, councils must have the opportunity to play an active part in developing the way forward.

Any changes introduced have to be right for all areas in Scotland.”

The council’s response is set out in a report considered today at Special Council.

In brief, while the council clearly supports change that would improve the quality of service for users, it makes a number of points and recommendations including:

  • There has been a lack of consideration of the particular and unique challenges that face remote/rural council areas such as Argyll and Bute, compared to those in more urban areas; the council urges the Scottish Government to ensure that the impacts of these proposals are fully assessed in an Islands Impact Assessment and Fairer Scotland Duty Assessment. For example, being able to consistently provide equal access to services for all communities is a significant issue for an area like Argyll and Bute and there is a concern that some of the proposals will compound inequities that exist.
  • The consultation document makes multiple references to a consistent approach to service delivery but this does not serve rural communities; services need to be able to adapt to meet local needs and so should be led locally by those who understand local communities.
  • These services should remain the statutory responsibility of local authorities and decisions on how they are governed should be taken at a local level to match local area needs:
    • Adult social work and social care services
    • Children and Families social work and social care services
    • Mental Health Services
    • Community Justice services
    • Alcohol and Drug Services
  • Children’s Services should not be included in a national care service. To deliver successful outcomes for children and young people, Children’s Services and council-run Education Services need to work together. The Scottish Government and COSLA had previously agreed that education and early learning and childcare should not be delivered separately from children’s services, given the evident need for joined up delivery. If a new alternative approach is needed, the council proposes that Education and Children’s Services should be delivered together as one council service.
  • There is no evidence that a national care service will deliver better outcomes. Building on existing good practice supported by increased investment will deliver greater improvement with strong local democratic accountability

The national care service consultation closes on 2nd November 2021.

You can read the full report on the website (Item 3 on the agenda for the Special Council meeting).

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