National Care Service: Finance committee rebukes minister for failing to provide funding detail
The convener of the parliament’s Finance and Public Administration Committee has castigated social care minister Kevin Stewart for failing to provide the information required to properly scrutinise plans for a proposed National Care Service.
The proposal, which enviages bringing adult social care under the control of a single, NHS-style service managed by local boards, was unveiled by health secretary Humza Yousaf last year. He called it the “most ambitious reform of public services since the creation of the NHS”.
In a report published in December the committee said it had “significant concerns” about the lack of detail the government had provided on how the service will be funded.
In a letter sent to Stewart yesterday, committee convener Kenneth Gibson criticised the minister for failing to provide updated information despite promising to do so by the beginning of March. He also asked Stewart to explain why he waited until two days before the information was due to inform the committee that it would not be forthcoming.
“As you are aware, the committee published our report on 1 December 2022 expressing our significant concerns regarding the lack of detail in the original financial memorandum and requesting that an updated [memorandum] be provided, at least two weeks before completion of Stage 1 of the bill,” Gibson wrote.
“We have been given assurances since that an updated [memorandum] was being developed and would be provided to the committee within this timeframe. The Deputy First Minister, for example, told the committee on 7 February 2023 that the maximum cost of the [National Care Service] Bill in the next financial year ‘is likely to be a figure no higher than £50m’, adding however that the updated [memorandum] ‘will give greater confidence around that point.”
Noting that the committee had scheduled time to take evidence on the bill this week and next, Gibson said that the delay has had a “significant impact on our work programme”.
“We therefore seek details of the reasons why the committee was only advised of this delay less than two days before the committee’s deadline for receiving the Scottish Government’s response and updated [memorandum], and clarification on exactly when the decision to delay was taken,” he wrote.
“Given the concerns set out in our report of 1 December regarding the lack of detail provided in the original [memorandum], we request details of the full financial implications of the delay and a breakdown of how much has been spent on the project to date.
“We also seek details of how any unspent funding will be reallocated and how future spending will be reprofiled in light of the delay.”
In addition to the finance committee, the Scottish Parliament’s Criminal Justice Committee and Delegated Powers and Law Reform Committee have also raised concerns that there is not enough detail in the National Care Service Bill to enable them to properly scrutinise the plan.
The proposal has been unpopular since it was first announced, with opposition parties accusing the government of attempting to grab power from local authorities and a range of organisations including the Scottish TUC calling for it to be put on hold.
Despite being the minister behind the bill, Yousaf – who is in the running to replace Nicola Sturgeon as SNP leader and first minister – said he would be willing to overhaul the plan should his leadership bid be successful.
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