The first vote on a new national care service for Scotland is to be pushed back until after the Holyrood summer recess.
In a letter, newly appointed Social Care Minister Maree Todd said this would allow for “compromise” to be reached with its critics.
Under the changes, adult social care – and potentially other areas including drug and alcohol services and children’s services – would be taken out of the hands of local authorities and given to newly formed, regional care boards which would ultimately be responsible to ministers.
The Parliamentary process would originally have seen a debate and vote on the Stage 1 general principles of the bill taking place by this month.
However, calls to pause the Bill came from members of three Holyrood committees as well as from trade unions, charities and professional bodies. The MSPs said there was too little information in the proposals to allow them to scrutinise them properly.
Maree Todd MSP says in her letter the Scottish government remains committed to delivering a national care service to improve quality, fairness and consistency of provision that meets individual’s needs. But, she adds, “We wish to use the time ahead of the Stage 1 debate to find compromise and reach consensus with those who have raised concerns during the Stage 1 scrutiny undertaken so far.
She adds:“We see value in continuing engagement and co-design activities through summer before moving to the next stage of the Bill.”
Ms Todd says the government will hold a series of regional forums to allow ministers and officials to engage directly with people affected by the proposals. They will also, she says, continue to work with key partners to codesign the national care service over the summer.
Opposition political parties say the government should now abandon the plan. Scottish Liberal Democrat leader and health spokesperson Alex Cole-Hamilton MSP said:
“This is a last-ditch attempt to buy some time for support that’s never going to emerge. The National Care Service is a billion-pound bureaucratic ministerial power grab- it needs scrapped, not salvaged.
“Scottish Liberal Democrats are the only party to have stood up against these flawed proposals from day one. The Government’s plans would consume gargantuan amounts of money and time without addressing the problems at the root of social care.
“This is money that needs to be spent on frontline services and staff who are firefighting on every shift.
”Scottish Conservative social care spokesperson, Craig Hoy MSP, said it’s time to stop kicking the plans into the long grass and redirect the spending into local care services:
“Every stakeholder has lined up against these proposals to centralise care services but still the SNP refused to listen.”