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National Care Service will have wider economic benefits, minister says

Maree Todd appeared at a Holyrood committee (Andrew Milligan/PA)
Maree Todd appeared at a Holyrood committee (Andrew Milligan/PA)

The National Care Service (NCS) will bring in economic benefits as well as improving the social care system, a minister has said.

Social Care Minister Maree Todd sought to reassure MSPs about the way forward for its flagship overhaul of the social care system, which she described as “morally and ethically the right thing for us to do”.

While the Scottish Government has made significant changes to its plans, MSPs on Holyrood’s Finance Committee have said they have ongoing concerns about the potential cost of the NCS.

The professional leadership body for social workers has also said the latest plans lack sufficient detail for scrutiny.

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Liz Smith said MSPs still needed more detail (Andrew Milligan/PA)

Ms Todd appeared at the Finance Committee on Thursday, saying the latest proposals are a “reasonable and balanced” proposition.

In the government’s new financial memorandum, the costs over a 10-year period amount to between £631 million and £916 million.

Compared to the original proposals, this was said to be a saving of between £249 million and £1.276 billion.

Committee convener Kenneth Gibson asked the minister how the NCS would produce savings in the wider economy.

Ms Todd said officials are “working really hard” to quantify this, saying the issue of delayed discharge costs the health service around £134 million a year.

Improving social care could also help people who are currently economically inactive, she said.

She said: “There will undoubtedly be economic impacts and economic benefits from this investment.

“I passionately believe in the National Care Service. I’m absolutely certain it is morally and ethically the right thing for us to do.”

Mr Gibson encouraged the minister to include “co-design” into the Bill at an earlier stage rather than later.

The issue of “co-design” – which incorporates the views of people who have experience of the system into the Bill – has been one of the key concerns of MSPs about the legislation.

Conservative MSP Liz Smith also said there should be more detail on the costs and benefits of the Bill.

Ms Todd said one complicating issue is that much of unpaid care work is undertaken by women on an “unseen” basis and hard to quantify.

She said the format of the proposed national board for care is still being worked on as part of the co-design process.

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Michael Marra said the legislation had been introduced in a ‘chaotic’ way (Fraser Bremner)

Labour’s Michael Marra asked about the work being done to draw up the NCS, with the minister agreeing that 170 civil servants are working on it as a cost of around £1 million a month.

Ms Todd said: “Once the system is built there will be far fewer civil servants working on it.”

Mr Marra said the Bill is being put forward in a “chaotic” way, arguing that the government is still unable to define the exact functions of the NCS board.

Ms Todd said: “I recognise that this committee and others have expressed concern around the framework Bill nature of this legislation – the fact that it is enabling legislation and much of the detail is pinned down in secondary regulation.

“I hear you loud and clear. And I am mindful and thoughtful about how we can increase the level of scrutiny from this committee and others.”