The move has been warmly received, but some in the sector say urgent action to address inequalities in care is still needed.
Charities working in Scotland’s care sector have welcomed proposals outlining the Scottish Government’s plans for a National Care Service.
On Tuesday Health Secretary Humza Yousaf presented the National Care Service Bill on a visit to Aberdeen, promising to end the “postcode lottery” of care.
Legislation to establish a National Care Service for Scotland (NCS) will ensure the best possible outcomes for people accessing care, Mr Yousaf said, making Scottish Ministers accountable for adult social care in Scotland.
The proposed change was strongly supported by those responding to the recent consultation on the plans.
The Bill provides the foundation for the NCS, and enables the fine detail of the new service to be co-designed with people who have direct experience of social care services.
At present, social care is mostly provided by private firms who follow guidelines on a council-by-council basis.
The Cabinet Secretary said: “This is the most ambitious reform of public services since the creation of the NHS.
“People have told us they want a National Care Service, accountable to Scottish Ministers, with services designed and delivered locally. That’s exactly what we are going to deliver.
“The design of the NCS will have human rights embedded throughout, and the actual shape and detail of how the NCS works will be designed with those who have direct experience of accessing and providing social care.
“We are going to end the postcode lottery of care in Scotland. Through the National Care Service we’re going to ensure everyone has access to consistently high-quality care and support so they can live a full life. This is our ambitious goal and while it will not be easy to achieve it is vital that we do.”
Aberdeen-based charity VSA, which supports people with a wide range of social care needs, hosted Mr Yousaf during his announcement.
The group said it looked forward to working with ministers in the design of the NCS.
Chief operating officer of VSA Aberdeen, John Booth, said: “We welcome the announcement that the National Care Service Bill has been published. With this being the biggest reform since the creation of the NHS we will now take the time to properly review the bill to understand the opportunities and challenges that lie ahead.
"We look forward to working with the Scottish Government to co-design the NCS to ensure the voices and needs of the vulnerable people who rely on our vital services are heard.”
Despite the welcoming, trade union Unison told the Daily Record they have concerns that the profit motive will remain in the care sector should the proposals go ahead, warning the proposals will remove legal responsibility for social care from democratically elected councils in favour of quangos.
General secretary of the Scottish Trades Union Congress, Roz Foyer, said: "Anyone working, or in receipt, of social care knows the crisis we are in with critical staffing issues in community and residential care. The proposal to transfer over social care, and potentially tens of thousands of local authority care workers, to a new, undefined organisation does nothing to build workers confidence that Scottish Government values this workforce or the service they deliver.
"Taking social care out of local authority control further undermines local democracy and potentially funding for our local councils. A truly transformative National Care Service would see an end to the profits being make by private companies who deliver social care, squeezing profit from the public purse, and the introduction of collective bargaining across social care to improve the pay and conditions of this highly skilled workforce. Unfortunately, as drafted, this Bill fails to give confidence that it will deliver a National Care Service valued as much as the NHS, and delivered for people, not for profit.”
Unite have also raised concerns, with general secretary Sharon Graham describing the legislation as a "wasted opportunity".
She added: “The Scottish Government could not have drafted a more incomprehensible, incoherent and dreadful Bill. The plans to transfer services, people and property from local authorities to the Scottish Government are a recipe for disaster and represent an all-out assault on local democracy.
“This is a wasted opportunity for the Scottish Government to build a public, accountable care service that genuinely serves the needs of the people of Scotland and leads the way across the UK. Unite is determined that we will force a rethink because these proposals risk making a bad situation for social care even worse.”
Theresa Shearer, CEO of one of Scotland’s largest social care charities, ENABLE, said: “ENABLE welcomes the publication of the National Care Service Bill, and we look forward to engaging closely with its passage through Parliament.
“However, urgent action is essential now to support people out of hospital into community-based care, and immediate, bold steps are required to address the recruitment and retention challenge – which is particularly acute in certain areas – to build capacity in the social care workforce through enhanced pay and conditions.
“Learning from demonstrably successful models can make human rights-driven, self-directed social care and support a reality for everyone across Scotland.”