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Council / Response to care service consultation hugely important, councillor stresses

RESPONDING to a government consultation on proposals for a national care service in Scotland will be “one of the most of important pieces of work” for the council in the months ahead.

That is the view of councillor George Smith, who expressed concern at the plans at a meeting of the full SIC on Wednesday.

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The council previously wrote to the Scottish Government to stress the need for an islands impact assessment on the plans.

Education and families committee chairman George Smith.

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”.

Locally most care services are run by the council.

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SIC chief executive Maggie Sandison previously told Shetland News 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.

The proposals for a national service were coined following an independent report into adult social care.

But Shetland Islands Council leader Steven Coutts said the scope of the care review has been extended.

This includes areas like children’s services, social work and criminal justice.

Coutts said that following the council’s decision in June to write to the government, a meeting with the relevant minister is in the offing.

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Smith – who chairs the council’s education and families committee – said it is “ever more important that we do get that meeting, and we need to insist that happens”.

He added that responding to the consultation is probably going to be “one of the most important pieces of work this council is going to need to do over the short to medium term”.

Smith added of the plans: “It’s cutting right through the heart of localism and decision making at a local level.”

The Shetland South member also said unaudited accounts presented at Wednesday’s meeting showed the importance of making decisions locally.

Lerwick councillor John Fraser meanwhile said the impact of the plans stretches further than just the islands.

“It goes beyond islands impact assessments – I think it affects every single local authority within Scotland,” he said.

Fraser added that he felt the council will be increasingly hamstrung if there is less control over services.

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