First vote on National Care Service to be pushed beyond June, says minister

The first vote on the controversial National Care Service will be pushed beyond June, according to a letter from the minister responsible, to allow for “compromise” to be reached with critics.

The legislation has been criticised for its lack of detail in recent months, with local authorities and trade unions among those who have raised concerns.

Under the changes, adult social care – and potentially other areas including drug and alcohol services and children’s’ services – would be taken out of the hands of local authorities and given to newly formed, regional care boards which would ultimately be responsible to ministers.

Earlier this year, the National Care Service (Scotland) Bill was paused with the initial vote slated for June 28 – but a letter from newly appointed, social care minister Maree Todd (pictured) has said she will seek to push the date beyond the summer recess.

“This Government remains committed to delivering a National Care Service to improve quality, fairness and consistency of provision that meets individuals’ needs,” Ms Todd said in a letter to the Health, Social Care and Sport Committee.

“The scale of this ambition will require the National Care Service (Scotland) Bill to progress in order to ensure sustainable social care services moving forward.

“We wish to use the time ahead of the stage one debate to find compromise and reach consensus with those who have raised concerns during the stage one scrutiny undertaken so far.

“As you note, the stage one debate is currently timetabled for the end of June.

“However, we see value in continuing engagement and co-design activities through summer before moving to the next stage of the Bill.

“As you are aware, stage one deadlines for Bills are agreed by Parliament. Therefore, it is my intention that the minister for parliamentary business will seek Parliament’s approval, via the parliamentary bureau, to extend the stage one deadline beyond June.”

It is not yet clear when the Scottish Government intends to hold the first vote.

The Government has come under fire for its co-design approach to the Bill, which will see framework legislation passed by MSPs before ministers use regulations to fill in the detail of the care service.

Ms Todd said the Government would “continue and deepen” its co-design efforts, by holding a series of “regional forums”.

Scottish Tory social care spokesman Craig Hoy said the delay was “not good enough from the SNP”.

“Every stakeholder has lined up against these proposals to centralise care services but still the SNP refuse to listen,” he said.

“It is time for the SNP, including Humza Yousaf who backed these plans as health secretary, to ditch this power grab on local services for good.

“Social care services are in crisis across Scotland on the SNP’s watch and the last thing they need is this bureaucratic nightmare and more oversight from SNP ministers.

“The Scottish Conservatives have voiced their opposition to a National Care Service since they were first unveiled and it is time the SNP listen to our calls to divert every penny earmarked for it to local care services instead.”

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