Government accused of grabbing power from councils with proposed National Care Service
Scottish Labour and trade union Unite have both accused the Scottish Government of “grabbing power” from local authorities after health secretary Humza Yousaf unveiled plans for a National Care Service that he said would end the “postcode lottery” in sector.
Last year an independent review led by former NHS Scotland chief executive Derek Feeley found it would not be possible to “achieve the potential of social care support in Scotland without a new delivery system”.
The government introduced its National Care Service Bill yesterday, outlining plans to set up a series of care boards that will operate in the same way as health boards and will be the direct responsibility of ministers.
The service, which is expected to cost half a billion pounds to deliver, would be expected to launch at the end of 2026, at which point local authorities would no longer run social care services.
Responding to the bill, Unite regional officer Wendy Dunsmore said it represents the “biggest power grab” in the era of devolution, adding that it would be “bizarre” if the plan means responsibility for care is transferred from local authorities to care boards but local authorities are contracted to provide the care.
“Scottish Government ministers will be able to unilaterally decide what services are to be delivered nationally or locally yet there is next to no detail on major elements of these proposals including how local and special care bodies will work independently and with each other even if it's at a minister’s sole discretion,” she said.
“The proposal to make local authorities a contractor for a service they currently provide by one of these care bodies is just simply bizarre.
"Unite has for some time been severely worried about the emerging framework surrounding the National Care Service and we have had every right to be. These proposals will be vociferously challenged and ultimately defeated.”
Scottish Labour health spokesperson Jackie Baillie shared the sentiment, saying that the proposal represents “nothing less than the biggest power grab in the history of Holyrood – one that threatens the very existence of local government in Scotland”.
The Scottish Conservatives have also accused the government of a power grab, with shadow social care minister Craig Hoy saying the plan would divert £1.3bn over five years away from frontline social care to pay for administration costs.
“Social care provision in Scotland is in crisis, but the last thing we need right now is a major bureaucratic overhaul of the system which would see precious resources diverted away from the frontline and into employing hundreds more management and admin staff,” Hoy said.
“The SNP government’s own figures show that establishing a National Care Service could cost an eye-watering £1.3bn in administration costs. We simply can’t afford to see that sort of money diverted from frontline local services.”
Speaking after the bill was published Yousaf said it was “the most ambitious reform of public services since the creation of the NHS”.
"The design of the National Care Service will have human rights embedded throughout, and the actual shape and detail of how the National Care Service works will be designed with those who have direct experience of accessing and providing social care,” he added.
"We are going to end the postcode lottery of care in Scotland. Through the National Care Service we’re going to ensure everyone has access to consistently high-quality care and support so they can live a full life. This is our ambitious goal and while it will not be easy to achieve it is vital that we do.”