Scotland’s new national care service could be expanded further than first anticipated and take control of drug and alcohol services, children and young people and social work, under Government plans.
The service is a flagship policy of the SNP which has wide support across Holyrood but it was initially planned to only take control of adult social care.
However, a consultation document published by the Scottish Government details plans that could broaden the body’s responsibilities to include social work, children’s services, community justice and alcohol and drug services.
The 147-page document lays out Government thinking on the care service – although none of the proposals are set in stone – asking for input from the public on the plans.
Social care minister Kevin Stewart said on Monday the Scottish Government hopes to create a “create a comprehensive community health and social care service that supports people of all ages”.
“I believe, however, that it is right for this consultation to look beyond simply the creation of a national service for adult social care,” he said.
“The ambition of this Government is to go much further and to create a comprehensive community health and social care service that supports people of all ages.
“We are also committed to ensuring there is strong local accountability in the system.”
Local accountability, the Government says, would be created in the new body by scrapping the current integration joint boards and replacing them with community health and social care boards, which would bring together elected representatives, people with lived experience and healthcare professionals.
He added: “We are at the beginning of a journey to improve social care in Scotland.
“We will only get this right with your support. I want to hear from as many people and organisations as possible over the next couple of months, so we can build a better system together.”
Scotland is in the depths of a drug deaths crisis that has seen the highest death rate in Europe.
Figures released at the end of last month show 1,339 people died in 2020 – the highest figure on record in Scotland.
Now, the Scottish Government proposes to take control of specialist drug treatment out of the hands of local partnerships and potentially make it the responsibility of the new service.
The document said: “We are also considering whether it would be more effective for the national care service to commission specialist provision, such as residential rehabilitation services, on a national level.
“The aim of this would be to increase accessibility of rehabilitation programmes and aid in developing good practice on referral pathways, and ensuring funding models are clear and deliver value for money.
“We are also interested in views on whether other alcohol and drugs services might be better organised on a national basis.”
Responding to the consultation, Tory social care spokesman Craig Hoy expressed concerns at increased centralisation of social care.
“We will look closely at the SNP’s proposals but remain firmly of the view that local delivery is key in social care and social work services,” he said.
“The government’s plans go far further than the Feeley review’s recommendations.
“We will strongly oppose any SNP plan which threatens local services by taking power away from local communities or which increases centralisation and reduces accountability.”
Alex Cole-Hamilton, the Scottish Lib Dem health spokesman and frontrunner to replace Willie Rennie as party leader, also raised questions about local accountability, adding: “Rather than building a new organisation at the beck-and-call of ministers, we should be focusing on improving care with national standards and entitlements for users and by ensuring that the hard work of staff is recognised with a step change in pay and conditions.”