Question about whether a National Care Service will keep the promise remains unanswered - Fiona Duncan

No journey towards change whether personal, political, or structural takes place without unexpected challenges.

Last August, Scottish Government began a 12-week consultation on the creation of a National Care Service that would include children’s social care services. This took many involved in the work to #KeepThePromise by surprise; the conclusions of the Independent Care Review, published in February 2020, had been widely welcomed and accepted. Organisations and individuals were working hard – and together – to make the changes children and families had told the Independent Care Review was needed.

Unsurprisingly the proposal also created anxiety. Organisations that understood their common cause to #KeepThePromise, found themselves at odds about the benefits or otherwise of a National Care Service that included children and families. Others were unsure about the impact it would have on the work they had already begun. This uncertainty fed inertia, which in turn caused delays – delays that impacted mostly on the lives of children and families, who had been promised change almost a year and a half earlier.

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Amidst this insecurity, The Promise Scotland – the organisation set up to support Scotland to realise the conclusions of the Independent Care Review – focused on the single question that is core to all its work: will this #KeepThePromise?

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

This approach informed its consultation response which revisiting the Independent Care Review’s Evidence Framework, cross-referenced it with the recommendations of the Review of Adult Social Care, assessed the impact on plans already underway to #KeepThePromise and considered the implications in relation to the composite stories developed from and with the thousands of children and young people who shared their experiences with the Independent Care Review.

This question is also why it commissioned research into the 1,095 consultation responses the government published? This research generated questions of its own, including what difference a National Care Service would actually make in children’s lives, how would it function and integrate services – as well as how it could be ensured that it will help Scotland #KeepThePromise and improve outcomes for children and families.

Just as The Promise Scotland concluded there was no clear evidence as to whether a National Care Service will or won’t #KeepThePromise, around half the organisations who responded to the consultation agreed it was simply not possible to say at this stage whether it would be beneficial to include children and families.

And just as The Promise Scotland invested time, energy and resources into thoroughly considering this proposal, so did the many organisations – fundamental to the work of change – who submitted their thoughtful and nuanced responses. Time, energy and resources that would have been better deployed in keeping working for change.

This week, a bill was laid in Scottish Parliament that provides a framework for a National Care Service. While there are provisions that could allow children and families to be included in the future, it is no longer the starting position.

There is space and time to assess and understand the right thing to do for Scotland’s families. The promise that came from the Independent Care Review was built upon listening carefully and this must continue until the promise is kept; from Scottish Government to all the organisations and people involved in making change.

There is clarity about what the immediate future is for Scotland’s National Care Service and the process of consulting produced useful and important questions to answer before any further decisions are made. There is no more time to lose and no more reason for delays. A promise was made, and Scotland’s pace towards keeping it, must now rapidly increase.

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

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