National Care Service: Unions and Cosla join forces to attack 'centralisation' plans

Scotland’s local authorities and two public service unions have joined forces to on the Scottish Government to reverse “centralisation” plans for the new National Care Service, which they say would remove up to 75,000 staff from local councils.

Council umbrella body Cosla have come together with Unison and Unite to warn the proposed changes would have a serious impact on the future of local democracy and the viability of local government in Scotland.

They said the government's draft National Care Service legislation, currently before the Scottish Parliament, would see a large proportion of local authority staff, functions and assets transferred to a national structure overseen by ministers.

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And they warned the plans have left council staff uncertain over their future employer, their terms and conditions and their pay. The uncertainties risk years of disruption rather than contributing to service improvements, they added.

Cosla and the two unions, which represent council staff, said they opposed the Scottish Government’s “centralising approach” which would minister create and direct “unaccountable” local care boards to deliver services. And they called for the current plans to be redrawn to ensure local democratic accountability and the needs of local communities are at the heart of them.

Paul Kelly, Cosla health and social care spokesperson, said: “Instead of investing to improve care services now, the Scottish Government are choosing to prioritise unnecessary expensive structural reform which will disrupt services, staff and our communities who rely on support.

"Local government staff across social care, social work and community health have gone above and beyond to support local people over the past few years and are now faced with the added uncertainty that comes with these Scottish Government proposals. Cosla will continue to work with our trade union partners to support our staff across local authorities and stand committed to making improvements to services now.”

Tracey Dalling, Unison Scotland regional secretary said: “The National Care Service plans leave tens of thousands of staff, not just in local government but across many public services, uncertain about the future of their jobs and their pensions. What is certain though, is that if the Scottish Government passes its legislation councils will be hugely reduced, both as democratic institutions and as employers. The outsourcing of jobs to the National Care Service, will be followed by jobs going in areas like IT, finance, facilities management and others.”

Up to 75,000 council staff would be transferred to the new National Care Service, say Cosla and the unions.

And Wendy Dunsmore, Unite industrial officer, said: “The Scottish Government’s proposals represent the biggest power grab in the era of devolution. Ministers will be able to unilaterally decide what services are to be delivered nationally or locally, which is the direct opposite of local democratic accountability. There remains next to no detail on major elements of the National Care Service proposals including how local and special care bodies will work independently, and with each other, and crucially what this in reality means for the workforce.

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“It’s counterproductive and an unnecessary waste of resources to introduce a process whereby we make local authorities a ’contractor’ for a service they already currently provide when money can be put into frontline services. Unite has been severely worried about the emerging framework surrounding the National Care Service and we have had every right to be.”

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