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'There is little doubt that care services could do better' – Highland Council urges responses from public to National Care Service for Scotland Consultation, after presentation to health, social care and wellbeing committee

By Louise Glen

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Council leader Margaret Davidson.
Council leader Margaret Davidson.

Highland Council’s response for the consultation on “A National Care Service for Scotland” has been agreed by members of yesterday’s meeting of The Highland Council.

The response reflects extensive engagement carried out with elected members, staff groups, trade unions and professional bodies.

Local Authorities and other stakeholder groups across Scotland are submitting responses to the consultation which takes the original proposals set out in the Review of Adult Social Care in Scotland – referred to as “The Feeley Report” published in early February 2021 – and extends to a much wider range of functions including social work services, children’s services, criminal justice social work, prisons, GP contracts and the work of alcohol and drugs partnerships.

The draft Highland Council consultation response is in two parts.

Firstly, there is an assessment of the broad themes arising from the Scottish Government proposals, which reflects the views of members as expressed through two all-member seminars held earlier in October and feedback from of focus group sessions held with professional and practitioner staff across the various Council specialisms.

Secondly, there are the responses to the specific questions put in the consultation document itself.

Many of these are about specific service delivery questions and illustrate the professional views of managers and professionals from across a range of potentially affected council services and liaison with national professional groups, as well as the views expressed in the Members’ seminars.

The consultation has also been widely circulated to public, private and third-sector partners and stakeholder groups and the council’s social media channels will continue to promote and encourage as many people as possible to engage with the consultation and submit a response to the Scottish Government. The deadline for responses is 2 November 2021.

Committee members agreed the report’s core recommendations, along with two additional recommendations put forward by Highland Council Leader, Cllr Margaret Davidson and Cllr Raymond Bremner respectively:

The Council resolves that any future legislative re-organisation of Adult Social care should have at its centre local accountability and local decision making by democratically elected local members.

Agree to continue with member update seminars for further consideration of, and in tandem with, Scottish Government updates in respect of a National Care Service

Councillor Linda Munro, chairwoman of the health, social care and wellbeing committee, said: “It’s really important that as many people as possible in Highland respond to this consultation – it is crucial that the needs, challenges and special characteristics of Highland communities are fully recognised and supported by whatever structures are in place.”

Councillor Margaret Davidson, Leader of Highland Council, said: "There is little doubt that care services could do better, especially with the significant additional funding being promised by the government. However, as was clear during the Council debate today, there is no evidence that centralisation is the only or even the best way to do this.

"Indeed, it is fraught with risks, especially for an area as diverse and geographically challenging as the Highlands.

"There are so many unknowns and ambiguities in the government’s proposals that it’s also been a real challenge to respond effectively. It will therefore be essential for the government to continue to engage with local government as their proposals begin to become more defined”.

Cllr Bremner, leader of the opposition, said: “It was good to see members of the council getting engaged in the recent seminars. There was a wide consensus that the current system is broken and needs fixed. There are some contentions but there is opportunity here and it’s important that the council continues to host the seminar sessions in tandem with Scottish Government updates in respect of a National Care System.

"I believe that the Scottish Government will have a real respect for the views of Highland Council members as we look to provide a system that better meets the needs of our Highland communities.”

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