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"No hope for social care": winter health plans leave key providers sidelined

This news post is 8 months old

Third and independent sectors say they have not been treated as equal partners

Key social care providers have reacted with “dismay” to Scottish Government plans to support health services over the winter.

This week, ministers announced extra cash to help the NHS over the coming months, including a £50 million funding boost for Scottish Ambulance Service recruitment and up to £12m to expand Hospital at Home, in an attempt to free up hospital beds.

However, non-state social care providers say the winter plan, backed and signed off by local government leaders through Cosla, “offers almost no hope for social care”.

The chief executives of umbrella bodies representing the third and the independent/private sectors issued a rare joint statement, saying they have been effectively been locked out of its creation and have not been listened to or treated as equal partners.

Further, they have sounded an alarm that the document may herald a further round of cuts on non-state/local government-delivered social care services.

The joint statement was issued by Rachel Cackett, CEO of the Coalition of Care and Support Providers in Scotland and Dr Donald Macaskill, CEO of Scottish Care (both pictured above).

It reads: “As the CEOs of Scotland’s two major umbrella bodies representing providers of care and support in the third and independent sectors we are dismayed to see yet another winter plan which purports to be a whole system response for Scottish citizens but in fact offers almost no hope for social care.

“Both of our organisations have attempted to convince both the Scottish Government and Cosla that the plan was wholly insufficient to address the deep crisis facing our members and a system that is meant to uphold the rights of individuals who require care and support. 

“We have tried to be constructive in those discussions to which we have been invited, but have certainly not been engaged in any way as equal partners in finding solutions for a system in which our members deliver key public services for some of our country’s most vulnerable individuals and families. This document reflects that. The marginal changes made to an early draft following our strong criticisms do not allay the fundamental concerns we shared.”

Quoting a paragraph from the plan, they add: “In particular, we note a deeply disturbing direction for social care providers and, ultimately, for those who rely on services to maintain independence and connection and prevent crisis: ‘Where necessary, local systems will prioritise social care and support services for those who need it most and are considered to be at a critical or substantial risk level.’

“In the current climate, where we already see social care budgets being depressed to the detriment of people and, indeed the wider system, we fear this will be read as carte blanche to remove or reduce funding for many people who need support. This cannot be allowed to happen. 

“We hope that the cabinet secretary and Cosla leaders will clarify their intentions in including this statement and do significantly more to underline their commitment to a thriving social care system for which they wish to share accountability through a National Care Service.”

The Scottish Government said it has taken a “whole system approach” and has been “working closely with Cosla, health and social care partnerships, and NHS boards on a number of further measures to ensure they are prepared for the winter period.”

It doesn’t mention the third or the independent care sectors.

Health Secretary Michael Matheson said: “Our highly skilled and committed workforce are the cornerstone of our response every winter, both in health and social care. I am extremely grateful for their continued hard work and dedication in the face of sustained pressure. As we approach the winter period their efforts will be vital in ensuring we deliver high quality care for the public.

“We are in no doubt that this winter will be extremely challenging for our health and social care system. Our winter plan builds on the lessons we have learned from previous years and preparations have been on-going since spring. Our whole system approach is based on ensuring people can access the care that is right for them – at the right time and in the right place.”

Councillor Paul Kelly, Cosla’s health and social care spokesperson, added: “As key partners in ensuring people and communities are safe and cared for over the winter period, and indeed throughout the year, local authorities have a vital role in enabling people to continue to safely access the care and support they need when they need it.

“We expect the winter to be a very challenging period across the whole health and social care system at a time when the system is already experiencing significant demand pressures and challenges with recruitment and retention.

“That is why Cosla has worked closely with Scottish Government in producing this plan, recognising the importance of the integration of health and social care, and the clear leadership role of local government in doing everything we can to maximise capacity across health, social care, and social work, and ensure people get safe and timely access to services during peak winter pressures.”