An independent review has backed calls for the creation of a National Care Service in Scotland.
The report, published by Derek Feeley, a former Scottish Government director general of Health and Social Care, recommends that the service should be established on an equal footing with NHS Scotland, and that a Minister for Social Care should also be appointed.
The service would oversee the delivery of social care, aim to improve standards, ensure enhanced pay and conditions for workers and provide better support for unpaid carers.
The news comes five months on from First Minister Nicola Sturgeon’s announcement that there would be an independent review of adult social care.
At the time, she said a National Care Service could be a “lasting and positive legacy” from the COVID-19 crisis.
Announcing details of the report, Feeley said: “Scotland has ground-breaking legislation on social care, but there is a gap, sometimes a chasm, between the intent and the lived experiences of those who access support.
“We have a system that gets unwarranted local variation, crisis intervention, a focus on inputs, a reliance on the market and an undervalued workforce.
“If we want a different set of results, we need a different system. That’s why I want to see a National Care Service, delivered in partnership with the people who rely on it and with the workforce, which provides the opportunity for everyone in Scotland to flourish.”
The review recommends that the National Care Service should oversee local commissioning and procurement of social care. However, it has warned against nationalisation, and stated that the current use of private, third sector and public care providers should carry on.
It said: “We believe that, by establishing national accountability for adult social care, the Scottish Government can work with local systems to address systemic problems evident in our current arrangements while at the same time developing, maintaining and enriching key links to other Local Authority services.
“We envisage an important and continuing role for Local Authorities as public providers of social work and social care services, and as partners in Integration Joint Boards, where they will continue to work with their NHS partners and others to meet local needs and steward health and social care resources.”
The report also calls for social care to be made free at the point of need, like the NHS, with increased funding and a human rights-based approach to care.
“People should no longer be charged for non-residential social care support such as care and, support at home, and day care. It does not make sense for people to have access to health care free at the point of need but, in circumstances that are equally related to their health and wellbeing, to be charged for support. It also does not support delivery of their human rights,” the report added.
Commenting on the review, Nicola Sturgeon said: “The government will respond to its recommendations in due course, and the Health Secretary has requested a Parliamentary Debate on the report later this month.
“The pandemic has shown us – more starkly than ever before – just how much our care services matter.
“So the review report provides us with a basis for significantly improving these services, and of course is a vital first step towards the creation of a national care service.”