National Care Service update

UNISON Local Organiser Joseph Lynch gave an insight to the proposed National Care Service at the Branch AGM and explains more below.

What is being proposed as a national care service is essentially the broken system we have now with some new ministerial over- sight, some national standard setting, some more collective bargaining for care workers in the private and voluntary sector ( possibly) … and the transfer of social work out of local government.

The basic set up will be that like just now responsibility for social care will be with Integrated Joint Boards. Renamed as Community Health and Social Care Boards (CHSCBs) and with a revamped membership (details on that aren’t clear yet). Legal responsibility for the provision of these services will transfer from councils to the new boards. The Scottish Government also intends to transfer responsibility for all of children’s services, criminal justice social work, drug and alcohol services to the new NCS.

The CHCSB’s won’t have staff who deliver services but will only commission and procure services from public, third and private sector providers. (NB unlike the current boards there will be some directly employed staff, they will be employed in planning services managing contracts and arrangements). These will be funded directly by Scottish Government rather than as the IJB’s are via Councils and Health Boards.

The system overall will come under the responsibility of a Scottish Government Minister who will have responsibility for setting national standards and regulating the system. In the short term this might not have too much impact. Indeed national regulation of contracts could bring about positive changes in some areas. There is the prospect – but not certainty of extending sectoral collective bargaining to unrepresented staff.

In the longer term though this expansion of areas into the sphere of contracts and procurement might well mean the possibility of work transferring out of the public sector into the voluntary or private sector, or vice versa. The financial context will be critical here.

These are the proposals the Scottish Government consulted on. They are currently looking at the results of the consultation that have been prepared for them by international business consultancy Price Waterhouse Coopers.

UNISON’s response to the proposals is to welcome some elements, reject others and ask the Scottish government to go further in some areas. The transfer of services out of local government is unequivocally rejected.

UNISON’s view is that social care is a community service, that should delivered in the community with the aim of supporting people to continue living independently in the community, linking with, and integrating with several community based services such as housing, education, leisure, culture, community organisations, families, and neighbours is reiterated. The danger that centralising this care under a national structure risks weakening these community connections is pointed out.

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