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The voice of Scotland’s vibrant voluntary sector

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Concerns raised over proposed National Care Service

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The draft bill includes powers to transfer justice services, including some social work, to new boards.

Plans to bring various justice services under the remit of the proposed National Care Service (NCS) are “reckless” and not “grounded in evidence”, an MSP has said.

The Scottish Government’s draft NCS bill, published in June, will give Scottish Ministers the power to transfer functions such as justice social work and youth justice to new care boards.

This sweeping move will effectively dissolve the legal responsibilities of local authorities and enable these boards to directly commission services.

The transfer of these powers will lead to worse outcomes for service users, Labour’s Katy Clark warned. 

Speaking after the Criminal Justice Committee agreed to take evidence on the issue, Scottish Labour spokesperson for Community Safety, the West Scotland MSP said: “Social work is not the same as social care. There is no evidence base for incorporating justice social work into the national care service.

“This work is essential for delivering community interventions that reduce the imposition of custodial sentences, a stated aim of the Scottish Government. Divorcing these services from councils is not grounded in evidence, has not been called for by the sector and was not recommended in Derek Feeley’s independent review.

“This will simply undermine local long-term community justice strategies and lead to worse outcomes for those who rely on these services. Putting justice social work jobs out tender will not solve the recruitment crisis in the sector – or improve public protection.

“Community justice services are specialist and you cannot simply resolve them by recklessly tacking them onto a new health and care-dominated body.”

She added: “The Scottish Government’s proposals are not for a care service in the mould of the NHS.

“Instead, they set out a catch-all quango that erodes local accountability, centralises decision making and incorporates all manner of services including aspects of criminal justice. The Scottish Government needs to go back to the drawing board.”