SHETLAND Islands Council is to write to the Scottish Government seeking confirmation that a full islands impact assessment will be carried out before any legislation is drafted around a proposed new national care service in Scotland.
It comes amid worry from council leadership that the plans will “diminish, rather than enhance, the community, fiscal and functional empowerment we seek in Shetland”.
A motion from leader Steven Coutts and his depute Emma Macdonald calling for clarity from the government was approved by members of the full council at a meeting on Wednesday.
Included in the SNP’s manifesto for the May Scottish Parliament election was a commitment to introduce a national care service.
The party said the service would oversee the delivery of care, improve standards, training and staff pay and conditions while giving support for unpaid carers.
The manifesto, said, however, that “it does not mean all care homes will be owned or run by the Scottish Government”.
At Wednesday’s meeting Coutts said he is not saying things do not need to change – and he referenced the government’s recent independent review of adult social care.
“I think there’s a lot of recommendations in that report that are very valid, and ones we do need to listen to,” he said.
But Coutts questioned whether it fits the circumstances in Shetland, such as the emphasis on private care provision – when locally care is largely council run.
He said he hopes to engage collaboratively with health secretary Humza Yousaf on the matter.
Macdonald, meanwhile, said structural change is not what is needed for Shetland – further investment is.
“Our health and care partnership has a history of working together incredibly well,” she added. “And given that integration is actually still in its infancy, Shetland is a fantastic example of partnership working well.”
Macdonald warned that a national care service could add additional barriers to joined-up working.
The depute leader also commented that the Shetland community should not pay the price for “broken systems” in other areas of Scotland.
The motion highlighted “significant investment the Shetland Islands Council and our partners have made in provision of care services in our community over decades, and the dedicated and committed staff delivering these crucial front line services”.
“To improve outcomes, reform is often necessary,” it continued.
“However, a move towards a National Care Service should not be merely accepted as the only means of reform without proper consideration of its scope, resourcing and implications for local decision making.
“Shetland’s model of care and strong partnership working has been developed and modified as local needs have changed, and is significantly different to many areas of Scotland.
“The council has previously voted to explore options for a greater degree of self-determination and are concerned that National Care Service proposal will diminish, rather than enhance, the community, fiscal and functional empowerment we seek in Shetland.
“As a matter of priority, and in keeping with the Islands (Scotland) Act 2018, the Council writes to the Cabinet Secretary for Health and Social Care seeking confirmation that a full Island Communities Impact Assessment will be undertaken before any legislation is drafted.”
The motion was broadly welcomed by councillors, and some concern was echoed over the impact a national care service could have on Shetland. South councillor Allison Duncan said it would be “another step down the road to becoming a nationalised state”.
Lerwick member John Fraser, though, stressed the need to respond – not react – to the independent care report.
“What we need to do I believe is don’t take an initial defensive starting point, and one of confrontation,” he said.
Coutts repeated his view that talks will be constructive.
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