Puzzling why consultation proposes bringing all social care into single service - Fiona Duncan

In August, the Scottish Government announced a public consultation on the creation of a National Care Service. The benefits of centralised services, accountable to ministers rather than local authorities, are regularly debated within Scotland. Policy makers and influencers have long been arguing about children and adult social care.

Fiona Duncan is Chair of The Promise, the body responsible for ensuring the findings of the Independent Care Review are implemented, and CEO of Corra
Fiona Duncan is Chair of The Promise, the body responsible for ensuring the findings of the Independent Care Review are implemented, and CEO of Corra

Given that the pandemic highlighted the crisis in social care, it is understandable that the government has decided to swiftly implement the recommendations of the Independent Review of Adult Social Care. Its report in February of this year called for the centralisation of many adult social care functions.

What is puzzling is why Scottish Government’s consultation proposes bringing all social care into a single National Care Service that includes children’s services. This scope goes well beyond the remit of the Independent Review of Adult Social Care, and the consultation document lacks any evidence or clear argument for this expansion.

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Over the last two months, The Promise Scotland has listened to the ongoing debate and is grateful to all those who remain committed to #KeepThePromise made to children and families in February 2020 - regardless of their position on a National Care Services.

It is this discussion, scrutiny and analysis that will help determine the best way forward for Scotland to #KeepThePromise by 2030.

The Promise Scotland’s only reason for existence is to drive the change demanded by the Independent Care Review, support the creation of a Scotland where every child grows up loved, safe and respected – and champion the work of people, organisations and institutions, across the country who are working towards that vision.

With that comes a responsibility to challenge anything that could hinder progress for children and families and get in the way of achieving this vision.

It is not yet clear that a National Care Service would increase the pace of progress that Scotland’s children and families must see and experience. It is possible that the evidence-based case will develop over the coming months, and if so, The Promise Scotland will review this and - if it makes clear how Scotland will #KeepThePromise - respond positively.

But the detailed assessment The Promise Scotland has done of the current proposal raises significant concerns: for example, there has been no consideration of the impact on children and families of lifting one critical part of the ‘care system’ out of local authorities that provide nurseries, schools, youth work etc.

Last February, Scotland made a promise when it committed to implement the Independent Care Review in full. Government, national and local, quangos, charities, organisations, institutions and individuals all committed to change, to realise a country where infants, children, young people and their families are treated with respect, kept safe and supported to thrive. There are elements of the proposed National Care Service that might well #KeepThePromise but what’s been presented far falls short of what is needed.

So, what needs to happen now?

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For a start, there must be evidence of how a new National Care Service would implement the change envisioned by the Independent Care Review. When childhoods are at stake, Scotland cannot afford a speculative gamble that hopes for the best.

The Promise Scotland has no organisational stake in the structural arrangements for children’s services. It will remain engaged in this national discussion as it develops, advocating solely for Scotland to keep the promise it made to children and families as swiftly as possible. If a National Care Service would help accomplish this, The Promise Scotland will be the first to enthusiastically back it. However, on the basis of what is known at present, that day is not now

Fiona Duncan, chair of The Promise Scotland

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