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Fund social care rather than create National Care Service, MSPs told

The National Care Service (Scotland) Bill was introduced earlier this year (Jane Barlow/PA)
The National Care Service (Scotland) Bill was introduced earlier this year (Jane Barlow/PA)

The National Care Service should be scrapped and funding diverted into current social care services, MSPs have been told.

The service is currently working its way through Holyrood, with the National Care Service (Scotland) Bill aiming to consolidate social care services under a national body divided into regional boards similar to the NHS.

Estimates of the cost of the reforms have fluctuated, with local authority body Cosla suggesting the NCS could cost as much as £1.2 billion annually, in a period where the Scottish Government has had to make cuts to its budget already to fund local authority pay deal with more expected as the result of a strategic review.

Speaking before a meeting of the Finance and Public Administration Committee at Holyrood on Tuesday, Paul Manning, the executive director of finance and corporate resources at South Lanarkshire Council said scrapping the idea and diverting planned funding into local authority budgets could improve services.

“Currently, there’s a level of service provision that’s underfunded,” he said.

“There isn’t enough money within the system in terms of care and I think that’s acknowledged.

“The risk that we have is we’re embarking on a major structural change and I’m not convinced we fully understand how much this is going to cost.”

He added: “If there is going to be additional funding directed towards social care – and I think there’s a consensus that there should be – is there merit in doing that within the context of the existing structure?

“Could a better outcome be achieved more quickly by doing it within those existing structures as opposed to creating an entirely new structure of a National Care Service and everything that’s required to service that.”

When asked by committee convener Kenneth Gibson if he believed better outcomes could be achieved quicker through increased funding and scrapping the NCS idea, Mr Manning said he did.

“A properly funded system could deliver a better outcome, and that’s working on the premise that part of the reason the care system fails is because of underfunding,” he said.

Mr Manning went on to say that, while he favours increased funding for social care, “that’s not to say that no reform is appropriate”, but he questioned if the reform needed reached the level of a new national structure.