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by Margaret Taylor
10 February 2023
Criminal Justice Committee raises 'extensive concerns' about National Care Service plan

Criminal Justice Committee raises 'extensive concerns' about National Care Service plan

The Scottish Parliament’s Criminal Justice Committee has raised “extensive concerns” about the government’s plan to include criminal justice social work in its proposed National Care Service, saying it is impossible to scrutinise the implications because “insufficient information” has been provided.

Legislation to create the National Care Service, which would bring adult social care under the control of a single, NHS-style service managed by local boards, was introduced to Holyrood last year.

It has been widely criticised by local authorities and opposition parties, who say it represents an expensive “power grab” on the part of the government.

Last week, the parliament’s Delegated Powers and Law Reform Committee said the bill, which is being led by health secretary Humza Yousaf, does not include enough detail and risks “undermining the role of the parliament”.

Yesterday, a number of organisations including the Scottish TUC, Parkinson's UK and Common Weal warned of their “serious concern” about the draft legislation and called for it to be immediately paused.

In a report issued today, the Criminal Justice Committee said there was a lack of evidence to support including criminal justice social work in the new service and also cited “extensive concerns” about the lack of consultation and detail in the bill, which makes “scrutiny of the proposed changes and their implications and costs impossible”.

Committee convener Audrey Nicoll, an SNP MSP, said the lack of detail on the proposed change is “concerning”.

“Criminal justice social work and community justice play a crucial role in Scotland’s criminal justice system, yet detail of how these areas would be impacted by the creation of a National Care Service is lacking,” she said.

“The lack of information on the impact or merits of incorporating criminal justice social work into the National Care Service is concerning. The positive case for this move has not been made and so we are not convinced of its merits at this stage.

“In fact, with the other immediate challenges facing the sector, this upheaval could be to the detriment of current service provision.

“Our committee has written to the Health, Social Care and Sport Committee outlining our concerns and although we have no more formal role in scrutinising this bill, we would welcome the opportunity to scrutinise further any potential changes to justice social work services.”

Her comments echo those of the delegated powers committee, whose report said there is “insufficient detail on the face of the bill and within the bill documents to allow for meaningful parliamentary scrutiny”.

“Given the far-reaching nature of the proposed reforms, the committee is mindful there is a real risk of letting down those the bill is intended to help by allowing Scottish Government ministers to use delegated powers instead of primary legislation to introduce core and as-yet unknown provisions,” the report said.

“The committee believes the current approach significantly reduces the threshold for parliamentary approval and prevents MSPs from bringing forward detailed amendments.

“The committee believes this is unacceptable and risks setting a dangerous precedent, undermining the role of the parliament.”

When he unveiled the National Care Service plan last year, Yousaf said it was designed to end the postcode lottery of care currently being experienced across local authority areas.

“This is the most ambitious reform of public services since the creation of the NHS,” he said.

“People have told us they want a National Care Service, accountable to Scottish ministers, with services designed and delivered locally. That’s exactly what we are going to deliver.”

The government has said it remains committed to bringing the legislation forward and that it welcomes the scrutiny parliamentary committees provide.

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