THE Scottish Government has announced major changes in its plans for a National Care Service (NCS).

Local authorities will continue to be in charge of delivering care services and employing staff, according to the new announcement.

Previously, councils were to be forced to bid against private firms for NCS contracts.

The Scottish Government has delayed legislation to create the service until after the summer, using the parliamentary recess to engage with stakeholders.

But, broadly, the NCS was hailed by the Scottish Government as a way of increasing accountability for social care, with ministers being ultimately responsible for services.

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In January, local authority body Cosla described the NCS as a “distraction”, urging the Scottish Government to instead focus on properly resourcing councils to deliver the services.

But on Wednesday, the Scottish Government announced it had reached a partnership deal with Cosla and the NHS for the service.

Under the terms of the agreement, legal responsibility will be shared between the health service, councils and the Scottish Government.

“The Scottish Government has been working closely with local government to find a consensus on the National Care Service (Scotland) Bill, which will allow us to deliver on the urgent improvements needed to strengthen the delivery of integrated health and social care for people,” said Social Care Minister Maree Todd (below).

The National: Maree Todd

“This partnership between the Scottish Government, local government and the NHS helps establish where responsibility for people’s care will sit under the National Care Service.

“The detail of how this will work at a local level will be developed in the coming months and we will continue to update Parliament on this work, along with the results of our ongoing co-design events taking place across the country, after the summer recess.”

Paul Kelly, the health and social care spokesperson at Cosla who described the NCS as a “distraction” earlier this year, said: “Further improving the experiences of people accessing and working in social care and social work services must rest on an effective partnership between Scottish Government and local government.

“Combining shared national accountability with local expertise ensures the right balance of further improvement across Scotland, whilst rightly reflecting the diverse needs of local communities.

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“We know, too, that successful change is driven by the valuable staff who deliver services.

“We hope by setting out the continued role of local authorities in delivering social care and social work functions, and staff remaining employed within councils, we offer comfort and stability to the local government workforce.”

But Kelly conceded there was “more to do” in the design of the service, adding: “As we progress forward, we are committed to continuing to work closely with people in receipt of support and partners to design a system that ensures individuals and communities always experience high quality care and support.”

Roz Foyer (below), the general secretary of the STUC, welcomed the announcement, saying: “This partnership agreement is a much needed first step and can be welcomed by unions across the country.

The National: Roz Foyer, general secretary of the STUC, pictured at the STUC's new offices in Bridgeton, Glasgow
Photograph by Colin Mearns, Jan 22, 2022

“This deal is testament to our collective campaigning, ensuring care workers will now remain employed by local authorities and that councils still retain a key role in delivering local care.

“We will ensure Scotland’s workers have a seat at the table and will engage fully in the Government’s NCS regional forums taking place this summer.

“However, this cannot be a tinpot listening exercise. The Scottish Government must continue to listen to the voices of workers.

“As we build a National Care Service worthy of social care staff, we must ensure any new system is not-for-profit and unequivocally guarantees workers national collective bargaining, decent conditions and fair wages for all.”

Scottish LibDem MP Christine Jardine said the announcement “seems to be an acknowledgement at long last of the importance of local expertise and local input”.

But she added: “No one should be applauding just yet. There is every chance this will just be another attempt to dress up an SNP takeover as a local scheme.”