SNP minister admits ‘discontent’ from stakeholders over National Care Service plans

The Scottish Government has been urged to U-turn on National Care Service proposals over a lack of funding clarity as a Holyrood minister accepted there was “discontent” from stakeholders.

The Conservatives used their Holyrood debating time to express concerns over the plans to merge social care services – with Labour also stating it would “irresponsible” of the Government to press on with the reforms.

Criticism of the Bill has been mounting in recent weeks, with Audit Scotland most recently stating the true finances are unclear.

Concern has also been raised over the transfer of some 75,000 staff and diverting funding and responsibility away from local authorities.

Opening the debate, Craig Hoy, social care spokesman for the Tories, said the proposals lacked a “clear plan”.

He said cross-party MSPs, NHS boards, unions and the workforce were united in their opposition towards the current Bill.

“But Minister, there is a way out,” he said. “The iceberg can be avoided.

“The SNP can urgently U-turn on a National Care Service, they can back our common sense, local peer-driven approach, and unless they do, overstretched care workers, vulnerable patients and their families will suffer.”

The concerns were echoed by Paul O’Kane, Labour’s social care spokesman, said the “loss of confidence” in the proposals had been growing on a weekly basis.

He said: “It’s time for the Scottish Government to pause this legislation, meaningfully listen and properly engage to create a National Care Service Scotland deserves.”

He continued: “It is irresponsible to press ahead with legislation, which is not fit for purpose and does not command the confidence of key stakeholders.

“We cannot afford to get these reforms wrong.”

But Social Care Minister Kevin Stewart brushed aside concerns as he praised the Government’s “ambitious” plans.

And he said the proposals had been backed “overwhelmingly” by people who rely on the social care sector.

Addressing concerns, he said: “There are stakeholders who are not content with all aspects of this – but what I would point out to the chamber is that this is about people.

“And people in the consultation backed the National Care Service overwhelmingly.

“This is about people. That is who we need to listen to.”

Mr Stewart added: “We are, as a Government, fully committed to improving the experience of the social care workforce, increasing levels of pay as we recognise and value the work that they do.

“We must reintroduce a focus on early intervention and prevention. We must limit the number of people who end up in crisis. People want and need quality services, delivered at a time and by a method that best suits their needs, and builds on their strengths.”

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