National Care Service Bill could be ‘a bit of disaster’, warn unions

Plans to create a National Care Service should be put on hold, MSPs have been told, with union leaders saying as it stands the Bill to establish the system could be a “bit of disaster”.

Roz Foyer, the general secretary of the Scottish Trades Union Congress, highlighted fears that reforms “could end up costing an awful lot of money for the Scottish Government at a time when that money could be better used to deal with a system that is in crisis in a much more immediate way”.

The STUC last week wrote to ministers, calling for the Bill to be put aside to “take more time to get it right”.

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Cara Stevenson, of the GMB Scotland trade union, said, as it stands, workers in social care were being asked to “take a leap of faith”.

An elderly man, as the Scottish Government's National Care Service plans are criticised. Picture: Joe Giddens/PA Wire
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Much of the detail of the new system is not included in the Scottish Government’s National Care Service (Scotland) Bill, and will instead be developed using secondary legislation, which should see staff, care users and others involved in “co-designing” the service.

Ms Stevenson said: “Looking at reforming the social care sector is welcomed and I think great things could be done with social care if it is done properly.”

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But Ms Stevenson said: “There has to be more to the Bill that gives the workforce faith this is going to work.” She told MSPs on Holyrood’s health and social care committee: “I was, actually, a home carer in a local authority and worked all the way through the pandemic.

“Obviously, at the moment, we feel the Bill is not fit for purpose and the reason for that is we are dealing with a workforce, and I will try to not get emotional when speaking about this, they are broken, they are exhausted.

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“Now we’re giving them the National Care Service Bill, which doesn’t give them any sort of job security, any sort of value, and any sort of feeling of worth after the nightmare they have just been through for the last two years.”

Her concerns were echoed by Tracey Dalling, regional secretary for Unison Scotland, who likened the legislation to “buying a house, but without ever having seen it”.

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Mary Alexander, deputy regional secretary for the Unite union, told MSPs social care workers were feeling “extremely undervalued”.

The Scottish Government’s proposals would see social care services come under a new national body, which would then be divided into regional boards in a set-up similar to the NHS.

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