National Care Service plan ‘mad’ says East Lothian council leader

Monday August 29th 2022


East Lothian council leader Norman Hampshire.

Written by Local Democracy Reporter, Marie Sharp

A proposed new National Care Service has been described as “centralisation gone mad” by East Lothian’s council leader.

The Scottish Govenrment has lodged a bill in Scottish Parliament to create a new service which would allow Ministers to transfer social care from local authorities to local care boards and a National Care Service (NCS).

However at a meeting of East Lothian Council this week one Labour councillor described the move as an SNP ‘power grab’

And council leader Norman Hampshire said it had been drawn up by people with no understanding of the care people need.

Mr Hampshire, who leads the council’s minority Labour administration said: “The National Care Service is centralisation gone mad.

“This is about people who don’t seem to understand what the need is for care for older people and children.

“It is not just adult social care and children’s services that look after people in our communities. If somebody needs care they need housing, they need financial support,social support.

“All departments across the council provide support for people in our communities who need care and we need to keep these things local.

“If we bring this in then the communication between the different services people need will be broken and the quality of care they receive will be lost.

“We need to find a way for this crazy idea to be put on a back burner and never see the light of day.”

Councillors were asked at the meeting to delegate the power to respond on its behalf to consultations on the Bill to a senior officer when it was not practicable for elected members to do so.

They were told the Bill was lodged in June and had been made the council’s highest risk to its services if it goes ahead.

A report to members said: “The Bill, as published, includes the power to transfer Children’s Services and Justice Social Work Services to a National Care Service.

“The council’s concern and priority is that individuals and communities get the services they need at the right time regardless of where they live and of their individual circumstances.

“The Bill as it stands has the potential to have a significant impact on current services and the workforce, creating uncertainty and impacting on the ability to recruit and retain staff.

“At this stage, there is a lack of clarity on how the NCS will be financed with considerable uncertainty on how the proposals will impact on local authority budgets.”

Councillor Lee-Ann Menzies, SNP urged fellow members not to jump to conclusions until details of the bill were clear.

She said: “I think we all know change can be difficult and can create fear but it is important to note this is a framework bill.

“We don’t know what the meat and bones are going to be on it and I think we should go in with open minds, not closed minds.”

And Councillor Lyn Jardine, SNP opposition leader, said: “As far as the majority of people who receive services are concerned I don’t think they necessarily care where the governance lies.

“They want to make sure they are given as much of a say as possible in how their care is delivered.”

However depute leader Councillor Shamin Akhtar questioned the timing of the Bill as the country looked to recover from a pandemic which saw services work closer together than ever.

She said: “One thing it does not recognise is that Covid has made integration work harder for people”

And Councillor Colin McGinn, Labour, added: “The SNP Government want to centralise services, we know that, it is not a surprise.

“This bill strips away local authority input, it takes away local knowledge, local accountability and local people responding on the ground where it is needed.

“I believe it is a power grab and I won’t support it in its current form.”

Councillors approved the request to delegate responses to a senior officer.

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