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Community / Consultation underway on plans to create a national care service

The SIC says local authority is best placed to deliver social care in the isles

SHETLAND Islands Council is considering using new powers provided in the Islands Act in a bid to prevent council run care services to be aligned with a new national care service proposed by the Scottish Government.

A consultation into proposals to create a national care service for all community health and social care services opened this week, and it runs until 18 October.

Earlier this year the Feeley report recommended the creation of a national service for adult social care support but the Scottish Government said its ambition is to go further to include all care services.

The government says such a move would harmonise and improve care standards across the country, making Scottish ministers accountable for social care services.

But critics say the proposals are nothing else than another attempt to strip local authorities of powers they traditionally have held, and would, in the case of Shetland where social care services are being delivered by the council rather than private companies, likely lead to a deterioration of the service.

The alarm bells were ringing when these proposals were first discussed in the council chamber in June, resulting in elected members seeking reassurances from the Scottish Government that a full islands impact assessment would be carried out before any legislation is drafted.

SIC chief executive Maggie Sandison. Photo: Shetland News

Since then, chief executive Maggie Sandison has told Shetland News that the council may well use powers granted under the Islands Act to ask for social care to remain part of the local authority’s remit.

“If there is a drive to centralise and nationalise care, then there is a potential that we could put in a ‘devolved powers request’ around keeping what works, (…) and we think that we are the right people to deliver care to the community,” she said.

Should the government proposals become reality the new national care service would define the strategic direction and set the quality standards for social care in Scotland.

Local delivery boards would work with the NHS, local authorities and the third sector, the government said.

Sandison added: “As that consultation on change moves ahead, we are expecting that there will be proper engagement around island impact assessment and genuine understanding of the system here in Shetland.”

Meanwhile, newly elected SNP MSP for the Highlands and Islands Emma Roddick urged people living in the area to share their views.

“Health and social care in Scotland is an area I am passionate about. As someone who has experienced the current system, I am happy to see reform towards a person-centred approach and better support for care workers,” she said.

“It is vital that people in the Highlands and Islands with experience of care give their views. We live in a unique environment, often with little choice in or control over the services we can access.

“By responding to this consultation, we can ensure that our residents experience the same standard of care as those in the rest of the country.”

The consultation paper can be found here.