Unions fume as another six-figure National Care Service contract set for private firms

Unions have claimed awarding another six-figure contract around the National Care Service to a private company would “make a mockery” of promises to ‘co-design’ the service, amid calls to abandon the plans altogether.

It follows figures in October last year that showed £1.6 million had been paid to external, private consultancy firms by the Scottish Government on contracts connected to the National Care Service (NCS).

Trade unions said then the use of private consultants threatened to “unforgivably weaken the entire foundations of the programme”, while the Government claimed it “makes sense” to “free up” the civil service by hiring consultants in this manner.

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However, union concerns appear to have been ignored by the Government, which appears set to award another contract worth £600,000 to private consultants.

This contract will see the soon-to-be announced contractor work for two months to help design the IT system for the NCS, with the possibility of a further six-month extension.

Details of the contract state the successful bidder will also receive swathes of information pulled together by other contractors to help, including evidence from people with lived experience of complaints and redress within the social care sector.

The Bill’s proposals would see responsibility for social care services shifted from local councils to care boards, similar to NHS health boards, with the Government accountable for their performance. However, unions and council leaders have heavily criticised the plans as a power grab and the latest example of centralisation by the Government.

Should this work go to another private firm, it will mean a total of £2.2m of contracts have been outsourced to large consultancy firms.

Private firms could be set to increase their benefits from National Care Service contracts to £2.2m in total.

Roz Foyer, the leader of the Scottish Trades Union Congress, said the Government had acted in bad faith by putting the contract out to tender just before Christmas and labelled the shift to private companies as “misguided”.

She said: “The Scottish Government’s record in awarding private firms swathes of public money to design what should be a publicly owned a care service is damning. It makes a mockery of the apparent ‘co-design’ process of the service and fundamentally weakens the principles of national care in Scotland.

“We simply cannot allow for history to repeat itself. By putting this contract out to tender during the Christmas period – presumably in the hope no one would notice – with no consultation or notice given to trade union partners, the Scottish Government has acted in bad faith.

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“It’s misguided of ministers to continue to pour finite public money into a stumbling National Care Service Bill when our NHS is at breaking point. This £2.2m spent to date on private firms could have instead went some way towards paying for an increase in mileage payments for social care staff who are currently out of pocket on a daily basis when they do their rounds

“The health secretary has already reallocated £8m to frontline NHS services from the care sector. We’re telling him they can go further to protect our NHS and social care – pause the process of the National Care Service Bill, listen to the voices of Scotland’s workers and redirect resources to fix our broken health and social care sector to support those right at the frontline."

The Scottish Government was contacted for comment.

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