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Pause “Disruptive” National Care Service Plans Scottish Government Urged

The body representing Scotland’s councils has urged SNP ministers to pause plans for a National Care Service and redirect money into frontline services instead.

The call by The Convention of Scottish Local Authorities (COSLA) comes following the Scottish Government’s December Budget which once again set out real-terms cuts to councils’ funding, which will impact the social care and social work services they provide.

With rising inflation and growing costs, councils had identified financial pressures of over £1bn for 23/24 – the budget announced on the 15th of December will only provide for around £70m of that, once policy commitments for 2023/24 are considered. Councils spend around £4.3bn on directly supporting communities through care and social work services, which will now come under tremendous pressure.

Though front-line services could face significant funding shortfalls, it remains unclear how much money has been allocated for the Government’s structural reorganisation of care. According to the Scottish Parliament Information Centre’s (SPICe) Budget 2023-24 Briefing, “it is not clear how much has been set aside for the NCS (National Care Service)… The financial memorandum for the National Care Service Bill had identified funding of £63-95 million for 2023-24, but it is not clear whether this is in line with what has been allocated this year.”

The National Care Service Bill is continuing through the Scottish Parliament, with the Stage 1 debate expected by 17th of March 2023. The Scottish Government intends to have a National Care Service operational by 2026.

COSLA’s Health and Social Care Spokesperson, Councillor Paul Kelly, said:
“It is inconceivable that the Scottish Government has put forward a budget that would see real-terms cuts to frontline care services, whilst proceeding with centralising structural reforms.

“Our communities, our dedicated front-line workforce and our vital public services deserve to be valued. Rhetoric must meet reality now; we cannot wait until 2026.

“Improvements to care could progress faster and with more impact if services were properly resourced and did not face the distraction of structural reform. Instead, we are presented with reorganisation and real-terms cuts, which will have a significant impact on the delivery of care.

“Ministers must invest in change now and pause their plans for structural reorganisation.”