NICOLA Sturgeon has insisted that setting up a National Care Service by 2026 would be a “fitting legacy from the trauma of Covid”.
The First Minister told MSPs that a bill to create a new centralised system for social care would see the “most significant public service reform” since the NHS was set up.
Announcing the plans alongside the rest of her government’s legislative agenda, Ms Sturgeon also told MSPs that more funding for social care will also be brought forward.
She said: “I can confirm that we will increase funding for social care by at least £800 million – 25% – over the lifetime of the Parliament.
“We will also remove charges for non-residential care. And we will introduce Anne’s Law, giving nominated relatives or friends the same access rights to care homes as staff.”
Ms Sturgeon said: “I know that the establishment of the national care service will spark much debate, and it is vital that we get the detail of it right.
“However, done well, as we intend, a National Care Service will be one of the biggest ever achievements of this Parliament — and, just like the National Health Service in the wake of the Second World War, it will be a fitting legacy of the trauma of Covid.”
But Scottish Tory leader Douglas Ross attacked the National Care Service plans, accusing the Scottish Government of wanting responsibility for local councils to consist of “little more than bin collections”.
Cosla, the industry body representing Scottish councils, has criticised the expanded plans which include social care, addiction services and children’s services and has warned it puts funding for local authorities and their authority and responsibility at risk.
Mr Ross confirmed his party, along with Labour and the LibDems, will “oppose this damaging re-organisation”, claiming it will fund administration rather than front line social care.
President of Cosla, Alison Evison, told Holyrood’s Local Government Committee that any National Care Service “must be locally empowered”, and warned it could become a “distraction from what we need to do for recovery”.
She added: “There is no evidence, at the moment, that centralisation will deliver better outcomes.
“In many ways, national care, as it’s proposed, is an attack on localism, it’s an attack on local communities.”
Earlier, the SNP’s Local Government Secretary insisted that councils will be “a key partner” in plans to implement a National Care Service, warning “we can’t continue with the system we have at the moment”.
Shona Robison told MSPs that the Scottish Government and Cosla “may never agree” on the principle of the National Care Service, but stressed that she was hopeful “we can work together on the implementation”.
In response to warnings over the National Care Service plans being an attack on local decision-making, Ms Robison pointed to local delivery boards which will “plan, commission and deliver” the social care support.
She added: “This is something that is incredibly popular with stakeholders and actually many of those working on the front line of social care.
“We can’t continue with the system that we have at the moment – I feel personally very strongly about that.
“We need something different that ensures consistency of standards and making sure that system delivers for people rather than people having to fit in to a system.”