Sturgeon must stop construction of billion-pound bureaucracy, say LibDems

By Lucy Ashton

Scottish Liberal Democrat leader Alex Cole-Hamilton has today called on the Scottish Government to stop work on its billion-pound bureaucratic takeover of social care and instead invest the money in improved pay and conditions for workers and in frontline public services.

Mr Cole-Hamilton highlighted the breadth of opposition to the controversial proposals, including from within the SNP and from a host of civil society organisations, local government and health bodies.

His comments come as the Scottish Parliament prepares to hear more evidence this week from stakeholders, after it heard from a series of health and social care bodies and trade unions last week.

Mr Cole-Hamilton, pictured right, said:  “When there are record numbers of people waiting in hospital unable to leave and doctors warning that these log jams are disrupting medical care throughout the NHS, there can be no excuse for spending a billion pound on a bureaucratic reorganisation, rather than on patients and staff on the frontline.

“Council leaders, legal experts, former Health Secretaries, trade unions, leading economists, SNP back benchers, human rights watchdogs, health board bosses – that’s just small selection of those who have spoken out against this government’s plans for social care over the past few weeks. 

“Without enormous pressure on public funds, it is unthinkable that the Scottish Government could plough ahead with measures that are at best, a billion-pound bureaucracy and at worst, a blank cheque.

“Nicola Sturgeon must order her ministers to stop work on these plans and send the money to where it is needed the most. Scottish Liberal Democrats are determined to fight for patients and staff to come first, not Scottish Government ministers.”

Why the LibDems are battling to stop these plans:

The Scottish Trade Union Congress have branded the plans “Not fit for purpose”  and even SNP back bencher Michelle Thomson has said she has “no confidence” in the government’s costings 

Unison has assembled a“coalition of concern” over the plans  and ex Minister Alex Neil warned that the plans are “nonsensical”. Barnardos’ director Martin Crewe warned “will the National Care Service address and improve things? You know, it doesn’t really scratch the surface on a lot of those issues”.

  • Paul Kelly, health and socialcare spokesman for Cosla, said some of the issues about lack of detail in the plans were “very, very significant” and warned that councillors were “being asked to consider it without the proper details.
  • Eddie Fraser, chief executive of East Ayrshire Council, warned “We have no certainty as local authority leaders on what services are going to look like in the next three to four years, and the current circumstances are truly unstable for social work, for social care, but also for the rest of the council.”
  • Frank Jarvis of the Scottish Human Rights Commission said the charter of rights proposed by the Bill was a “presentational device of repackaging rights that careusers already hold” and warned that “Language in the Bill about human rights was also “unfortunately and unhelpfully vague”
  • Audit Scotland’s Mark Taylor warned that “Government needs to be able to be much clearer, at a much earlier stage about its financial plans.” His evidence follows written evidence from Audit Scotland which said the Government’s costings were “likely to significantly understate” the range of costs associated with the bill.
  • Emma Congreve of the Fraser of Allander Institute said: “a large amount of money will need to be spent on the set-up of the National Care Service, which is what the Bill is about… And there’s a lot of uncertainty within that number, there’s a big range in terms of the recurring costs even once it’s been set up.”
  • Ralph Roberts, Chief Executive of NHS Borders questioned whether money should be put into organisation change rather than into staff costs. In his submission he said the current plans could be “a distraction”

And they are  calling for the SNP’s Scottish Government to: 

  • Prioritise the establishment of powerful national bargaining with the Scottish Government funding required to deliver on fair work standards for staff.
  • Respect the social care workforce for the work they do and require care service providers to comply with fair work standards.
  • Recognise the right of every person to personalised care.
  • Involve disabled people and other care users in local commissioning so it is informed by local experience of unmet need.
  • Review the mix of provision available to people requiring care and support including modern sheltered housing, community care hubs, meal provision, community links and models of independent living for younger adults.
  • Ensure that the relatives of care home residents are able to have full and meaningful contact with their loved ones.

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