East Lothian council blasts National Care Service consultation

Monday December 6th 2021


Written by Local Democracy Reporter, Marie Sharp

The Scottish Government has come under fire for pushing ahead with proposals for the biggest overhaul of social work services in more than 50 years during the pandemic.

The plans to introduce a National Care Service, which would take responsibility for social services away from local authorities and health and social care partnerships have been put out for consultation.

But East Lothian Council has blasted the speed of the consultation branding some of the questions asked “biased” and too complex for the yes or no response options requested.

And the local authority’s response condemned the decision to push on with the proposals in the midst of the pandemic.

In a response to the consultation the council said: “The publication of the Scottish Government’s proposals and the consultation period have come at a time when local authorities, health and social care services are still fully engaged with responding to the Covid pandemic: business continuity plan arrangements remain invoked.

“The full attention of the Scottish Government, local government and the health and social care sectors should be on rebuilding the capacity of the NHS and social work and care services and on the recovery from the impact of the pandemic.”

The Scottish Government proposal of a National Care Service follows the publication of the Feeley Report commissioned by the Government into adult social care last summer.

The new service proposed goes beyond the recommendations of the report suggesting both adult and child social care should come under the new service.

In a report to councillors, East Lothian council’s chief executive described the plans as “the most far reaching changes to social work services since the 1968 Social Work(Scotland) Act and, potentially, the largest re-organisation of Local Government since 1995.”

In the council’s response to the Scottish Government it said the 95 question consultation sent out by the Scottish Government contained questions too complex for yes or no answers, questions which required specialist feedback and questions that were biased and assumed the National Care Service was the only option for the future.

It added: “The Feeley Report and the Scottish Government’s consultation paper make a significant leap between a description of what is not working well and the conclusion that a major reorganisation of social, care and local
government is required.

“The Scottish Government consultation paper compounds this failing by proposing to extend the scope of the proposed National Care Service without providing a valid justification or clear evidence base for why this conclusion has been arrived at, or any detailed analysis of the options that were considered and no evidence of having engaged with or consulted key stakeholders, service users or carers.”

In conclusion the council said it does not support the National Care Service proposal, which was dubbed undemocratic.

It added: “East Lothian Council has a fundamental concern that the proposals contained in the consultation paper are based on centralisation rather than localism.”

Minister for Social Care Kevin Stewart said:

“We are committed to delivering a National Care Service by the end of this parliament in order to ensure everyone gets the high quality care they are entitled to, regardless of where they live in Scotland.

“The Independent Review of Adult Social Care found the current way of working has not fully delivered the improvements intended to be achieved by integration of health and social care.

“The consultation closed on 2 November and we are considering all feedback. A key part of this will be ensuring the voices of people who are receiving care services are amplified.”

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