National care plan fails Argyll, says council

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Plans for a national care service in Scotland have failed to take account of the challenges facing Argyll and Bute, the area’s council has claimed.

The Scottish Government has proposed the service, which sets out to improve the way social care is delivered in Scotland after recommendations of an independent review.

The council has been invited to deliver its opinions, but a draft response has claimed that not enough consultation has taken place, and at the wrong time.

It has also expressed the view that a national care service is not the only solution to addressing the challenges faced by social care services in Scotland.

The authority’s draft response will be discussed by the full council at a special virtual meeting on Thursday, October 28.

In the draft document, a spokesperson for the council said: ‘As a remote/rural council, we feel there has been a lack of consideration of the particular and unique challenges that we face as an authority, compared to those within more urban areas, when developing the proposals, and would urge the Scottish Government to ensure the impacts of this proposal are fully assessed in an Islands Impact Assessment and Fairer Scotland Duty Assessment.

‘For example, being able to provide equity of provision to all our residents and communities is a significant issue for an area like Argyll and Bute and there is a concern that some of the proposals will compound this issue.

‘The council also believes that the period of consultation is unnecessarily short given the scale of implications for social work/care service users, carers, staff in the sector, provider organisations and for local government as a whole.

‘It is also being carried out at a time of unprecedented pressure on public services as they seek to recover from the impact of the pandemic.

‘This response from the council is based upon the limited, and sometimes unclear, information provided as part of the consultation document. The council have concerns around the level of detail and evidence that has been made available.

‘Given the significance of the proposals there is an expectation of greater clarity but this does not currently exist.’

The council’s draft response raised concerns about a perceived lack of detail on the medium to long term strategy required to implement the new service.

It also expressed fears about ‘unanswered questions’ on the employment status of local government social work and social care staff.

The spokesperson added: ‘The council recognises that there are issues which require to be addressed in respect of social care services, but does not support the view that the creation of a National Care Service is the only solution to addressing these challenges. On this basis, the council have outlined a number of alternative measures above that could be taken to implement the desired changes across the key themes within the consultation paper.

‘To date there has been no involvement from local government in respect of developing the proposals, therefore the council would very much welcome further engagement and dialogue as the consultation process progresses.’

Social care minister Kevin Stewart said: ‘We are committed to delivering a National Care Service by the end of this parliament in order to end the postcode lottery in the provision of care services in Scotland.

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

‘We understand there is often a need for a different approach for people living in island and rural areas and the National Care Service will help ensure that is delivered.

‘A full range of impact assessments, including the Island Communities Impact Assessment and Fairer Scotland Duty Assessment will be carried out in line with our statutory duties and commitments.

‘Our ambition is to create a comprehensive community health and social care service that wraps around families and smooth transitions between different categories of care.

‘The consultation seeks views on including those services that are already currently covered by integration arrangements, although this varies in different parts of the country.

‘We are still very early in the consultation process and we look forward to considering all feedback when the consultation closes later this year.’