Councils warn against social care reform

Transferring social care from councils to the NHS could cost more than £300m, according to the organisation representing Scotland’s 32 local authorities.

Cosla, the umbrella group for Scottish councils, said plans from political groups to make changes to social care are an “expensive distraction designed to gain short-term electoral advantage”.

Councillor Douglas Yates, Cosla’s health and well-being spokesman, said: “In anyone’s book, £300m to change the badge on a social care worker’s shirt is not a good use of public money.

“There are huge challenges that we need to address but the national parties’ plans to move social care into the NHS are an expensive distraction designed to gain short-term electoral advantage.

“The red tape that this will create would take years to unravel and force staff to spend that time sorting out structures and legal issues rather than delivering services to communities. And worst of all, there’s no evidence that the public would end up with a better social care service.

“I would also be interested in hearing what costs the party leaders have attributed to the restructuring of social care – since I’m assuming that all their plans are costed – and where that money will come from.”

The SNP favour a lead commissioning model, with councils and health boards working together to deliver social care. Labour propose a National Care Service merging health and social care in one new service.

The Conservatives support the merger of the health and social care budgets, while Liberal Democrats are against centralisation of services.

Labour’s health spokeswoman Jackie Baillie said the party’s plans would end the “postcode lottery of care” facing older people in Scotland.

She added: “The change that we and other political parties propose is about so much more than changing the badge on a social care worker’s shirt. Too many older people fall in the gap between hospital and social work meaning they don’t get the care they need and deserve. The current system is not fair, is not working and the status quo is simply no longer an option.”

SNP Public Health Minister Shona Robison said the SNP’s lead commissioning model would improve services.

She added: “Cosla are rightly critical of Labour’s plans to create a new and expensive bureaucracy but what all parties recognise is we must improve services to meet the twin challenges of an ageing population and Westminster cuts to Scotland’s budget.

“Our lead commissioning model avoids the costs of Labour’s bureaucracy whilst improving services. A re-elected SNP Government will work with the NHS, local authorities and Scotland’s older people to provide the best possible care services for all older Scots.”

Conservative health spokesman Murdo Fraser said the Tories have supported the merger of the health and social care budgets for a long time, as a means of delivering a faster response time to those in most need of care.

He said it would also serve to reduce the number of delayed discharges.

However, Liberal Democrat finance spokesman Jeremy Purvis said: “In stark contrast to the SNP and Labour, Liberal Democrats are determined to keep decision making for social work local. Cosla’s warning of the £300m cost absolutely confirms the Lib Dem argument that centralisation is not only bad for delivering local services, but can cost hundreds of millions of pounds.”