West Lothian Council criticises National Care Service plan

West Lothian Council has added its criticism to the proposed creation of a National Care Service to run adult social care in Scotland.

Thursday, 18th February 2021, 7:00 am
Picture Michael Gillen. West Lothian council leader Lawrence Fitzpatrick

It has echoed concerns raised by the local authorities umbrella group COSLA that councils are not given a strong enough voice in the proposals drawn up for the Scottish Government by an independent review into the provision of adult social care by Derek Feeley. And it has rejected suggestions that control of social care is taken from the hands of local authorities.

Leader of West Lothian Council, Lawrence Fitzpatrick said: “A renewed focus on adult care services generally is to be welcomed, as is the principle around improving the funding this sector receives in comparison to the NHS.

“The Feeley Report recommends areas for change which are positive, including better pay and conditions for staff, but there are critical areas that are unclear and propose to severely diminish the role of local authorities – that should be unacceptable to everyone who supports and believes in local democracy.

“Local authorities have suffered from local powers being removed over the past 10-15 years. This report – if implemented – would undermine local democracy, severely diminishing the role of councils.

“Local authorities have delivered quality, publicly owned, adult care services for years in partnership with health boards and integrated joint boards despite inadequate funding from the Scottish Government.

“The past year clearly evidenced that adult care services, despite their day-to-day importance to the lives of so many, have been treated as a poor relation compared to the NHS both in terms of prominence and funding.

“The leaders of Scotland’s councils were clear at their COSLA meeting that adult care services are best provided by councils who represent, and are answerable to, local communities. The positive aspects highlighted in this report can be delivered by local authorities with a proper funding settlement from the Scottish Government.

"There is no reason why councils cannot deliver this critical role without further centralisation of services.”

A further detailed report on the proposals will be considered by council leaders at the end of February.

COSLA said the establishment of a National Care Service, with accountability falling to Scottish ministers, would be detrimental to the local delivery of social care and its integration with other key community services. They also felt that given the level of funding set out in the Review, Local Government would be well placed to continue to deliver this vital service.

Speaking following a special meeting of council leaders Councillor Stuart Currie COSLA’s Health and Social Care Spokesperson said: “Council leaders noted the publication of the Independent Review of Adult Social Care and endorsed many of the principles set out in the report particularly in relation to empowering people, valuing the workforce and embedding a human rights approach to social care.

“However, there was real and unanimous opposition to the recommendations on governance and accountability which would see the removal of local democratic accountability and a degree of centralisation, which leaders rightly felt would be detrimental to the local delivery of social care and its integration with other key community services.”

“They also felt that given the level of funding set out in the Review, Local Government would be well placed to deliver the human-rights based approach outlined at pace, whilst ensuring local democratic accountability remains front and centre of social care.”