By Lucy Ashton
The Scottish Conservatives will today call on the SNP to heed the growing chorus of criticism and abandon their “reckless and unaffordable” plans for a National Care Service.
The party will lead a debate in Holyrood on Nicola Sturgeon’s proposals to centralise social care in Scotland, which they have described as an “accident waiting to happen”.
It comes amid a spate of recent warnings about the likely impact of introducing the NCS.
Last month, public services union UNISON brought together a ‘coalition of concern’ – including representatives of COSLA, Social Work Scotland, the Coalition of Care Providers Scotland and Parkinson’s UK – in an effort to make the SNP Government rethink their current plans.
SNP MSPs have also publicly voiced concerns over the NCS. The convener of the Finance and Public Administration Committee, Kenneth Gibson, last week warned of the “monumental risk”, while Michelle Thomson said she had “no confidence whatsoever” in the SNP’s financial plan for the service, calling it a “blank cheque for the public purse”.
Recent estimates from the Scottish Parliament Information Centre say that centralising social care under the NCS could cost around £1.3bn over the next five years. But this week Audit Scotland have warned that the cost is likely to be “significantly above the amounts currently assessed”.
Shadow Social Care minister Craig Hoy is urging the SNP to drop their NCS plans, which he warns would divert funding away from frontline care and could end up harming vulnerable people.
The Scottish Conservatives are instead calling for a Local Care Service underpinned by a ‘Local Care Guarantee’, to empower communities and ensure that everyone can receive care close to home, rather than being moved far from their loved ones.
Scottish Conservative Shadow Minister for Mental Health and Social Care, Craig Hoy MSP said: “The SNP’s National Care Service is an accident waiting to happen.
“It’s time for them to see sense and drop their reckless and unaffordable plans.
“Instead of taking concrete measures to properly fund and improve social care at the local level, the SNP want to embark on a massive restructuring that will divert funds away from frontline care and into the pockets of civil servants and administrators.
“Social care organisations and unions are terrified about these misguided plans, and even the SNP’s own members have expressed concerns over how the Government will fund the NCS.
“On top of that, we now have Audit Scotland warning that the already eye-watering predicted costs of £1.3billon are likely to be an underestimate.
“It appears that the Nationalists haven’t learnt a thing from their shambolic centralisation of Police Scotland – which left the service plagued by financial problems and a lack of accountability – and are determined to see our care sector go the same way.
“The Scottish Conservatives are calling on the SNP to scrap these wasteful plans and put every penny back into local care services instead.
“We want to see a Local Care Service that empowers communities, underpinned by a guarantee that people can get care in their local area, close to their family and support networks, instead of the cruel ‘out of area’ care that may become more common under this centralised system.
“The SNP must urgently U-turn on the National Care Service and back our common-sense proposals – or it is overstretched care workers and vulnerable patients who will suffer.”