SIGNIFICANT WORK needs to be done before the National Care Service (Scotland) Bill should be passed by Scottish Parliament, says Social Work Scotland, and they suggest that the Bill should be paused while detailed financial work is carried out.
The organisation, which represents senior social work leaders, states that whilst the National Care Service represents an historic opportunity to put Scotland’s social work and social care systems on a road out of crisis, the current draft of the Bill does not provide a robust process to deliver those aims.
Social Work Scotland is particularly concerned with the financial impact of the Bill, at a time when social work, social care and health services are in the midst of the most serious capacity and delivery crisis in living memory. Social Work Scotland’s members report that waiting times for assessments, support and treatment are all increasing, and in some social work teams over 30% of posts are unfilled, with vacancies receiving no applications over multiple recruitment cycles.
Most importantly, social work and social care staff are, like everyone else, experiencing a cost of living crisis, and the continued adaptation we’re all making to a post-pandemic world. Indeed social care staff, and the many para-professionals and administrative staff that support social work, are likely to be on relatively low rates of pay, and therefore under acute stress. In that context, co-designing a National Care Service risks adding to existing stress and undermining the wellbeing of the very people this Bill is about; staff, carers and supported people.
Convenor of Social Work Scotland, Alison White, says: “The ambition of a National Care Service is going to be set by the resources it has available, and frustratingly, there’s little detail in there about the reforms that will really matter to people. Up to £500 million has been allocated for purely organisational reforms.
“Based on the information that’s been published, we can’t say if a National Care Service is really going to address the systematic underfunding of social work and social care. Nor can we say whether the aims the bill sets out are actually deliverable, from the perspective of the public finances.
“We agree with the aims the Scottish Government is working towards, and putting social justice and human rights at the centre of social work and social care is critical. But we need this pause for more work to be done, so we can understand in much more detail how a National Care Service would work, and how it will funded, so that we can make sure we secure the best outcomes for the people we support.”
Social Work Scotland’s members have also put forward alternative options based on a partnership between those who are supported by social work and social care, and the professionals who provide it. If the Bill was paused, everyone with lived experience– whether that’s receiving or providing support – would have more time to have meaningful involvement in designing a National Care Service. It would also give opportunity for considered decisions around children’s and justice services reform to be made.
Notes to editors
- Social Work Scotland is a membership organisation which represents social workers and other professionals who lead and support social work across all sectors. Our vision is of a social work profession across Scotland which is led effectively and creatively; is responsive to the needs of the people we support and protect; is accessible and accountable; and promotes social justice.
- The Scottish Parliament’s call for written views on the National Care Service (Scotland) Bill closes Friday 2 September, and will be followed by invitations to give evidence in person. Social Work Scotland intends to engage fully with this process, providing a perspective from social work leaders on how a National Care Service can best deliver the outcomes it aims to.
- Social Work Scotland has commissioned a detailed analysis of the Bill’s financial memorandum which has informed our submission, and will be published in due course as a set of reports.
- The conclusions Social Work Scotland has reached, as set out in our responses to the Committee’s questions, should not be interpreted as a position for or against a ‘National Care Service’. Social Work Scotland seeks reform and investment to redress the multiple crises which are impacting social work and social care. We support the intent of the Scottish Government to make changes which will embed human rights and social justice into the operation of social work and social care. We acknowledge the democratic mandate the Scottish Government and Scottish Parliament have to establish a National Care Service in Scotland, and we are committed to engaging with energy and openness in its development.
- For Social Work Scotland’s members the establishment of a National Care Service, while important and significant in many ways, remains peripheral to the core objective of improving the lives of the many thousands of people who require support from social work and / or social care. We believe Scottish Government shares this core objective, and it is therefore against this objective that we have evaluated the Bill.
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Flora Aldridge, Communications & Engagement Manager