A Holyrood committee has called for firm assurances from central and local government on levels of funding required to deliver a proposed new system of social care amid claims the transition could cost up to four times the amount earmarked.
Plans to place a specific duty on local authorities to provide self-directed support (SDS) – granting people an individual budget for social care and the decision over how to spend it – have been backed by the Health and Sport Committee in the wake of evidence into the Social Care (Self-directed Support) (Scotland) Bill.
However, the group of MSPs has raised serious concerns over alternate approximations when faced with costs of implementation after the Convention of Scottish Local Authorities (COSLA) warned the £23million earmarked by the Scottish Government “falls far short of even councils‘ most conservative estimates”.
In May, the body representing local authorities across Scotland said between £50m and £90m would be required over the next three years to support authorities in managing a move that is hoped will allow users to take control of their care and meet personal needs more effectively.
“Whilst it is difficult to fully estimate the exact cost for all Councils, from the information provided by Councils even the lowest estimate for each of the cost areas outlined above over three years would total just over £50m nationally. Given that councils are at different stages in implementing SDS, it is highly likely that these costs would be higher, and indeed even based on the median of the estimates which were received the total cost to councils, over the next three years would be over £90m,” said COSLA in a written submission to the Finance Committee.
The discrepancy has prompted criticism of COSLA for failure to substantiate assertions made coupled with urgent calls for confirmation that funding allocated by ministers will not fall short. “The Committee notes the extremely wide disparity between the estimates produced by the Scottish Government and COSLA regarding the costs of implementing the Bill,” states their report released today. “The Committee considers that the difference is so great that it cannot be explained simply by the use of a different methodology by the two organisations.
“The Committee considers that the failure of COSLA to share the detail of individual council cost estimates was unacceptable as it prevented the Committee from being able to determine whether implementation of the Bill may be jeopardised by a significant gap in funding. The Committee believes that it is vital that witnesses are able to substantiate assertions made in written and oral evidence provided to the Parliament.
“The Committee notes that there is a continuing dialogue between the Scottish Government and COSLA and welcomes the establishment of a Self-directed Support Programme Board. However, in order to allow meaningful discussions to take place between central and local authorities regarding the level of funding required to support the implementation of the Bill, the Committee encourages COSLA to share its data with the Scottish Government as soon as possible.
“The Committee received assurances from the Scottish Government about the financial resources accompanying the Bill. Following further discussions between the Scottish Government and COSLA, the Committee seeks confirmation from the Scottish Government that these resources are indeed sufficient to facilitate the process of change required in order to implement the provisions of the Bill.”
Amid concerns over eligibility criteria set by local authorities for social care services, the committee also welcomed discussions assessing the potential for national thresholds for access to formal support.
Concerns implementation of SDS could be construed as a cover for cuts must be remedied by ensuring local authorities pursue a robust assessment process, the committee added, after a pilot delivered by Glasgow City Council encountered dissatisfaction among some service users undertaking the required reassessment.