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Monday, 16 July 2012

A huge disparity in the cost of implementing Self Directed Support in Scotland has emerged as the Scottish Parliament launched plans to legislate on what will be the biggest ever shake-up to the way care is delivered by local authorities.

The Self Directed Support Bill was launched last week in Glasgow by Holyrood’s Health and Sport Committee with an estimated implementation cost of £23m.

The Bill aims to give adults and children, including carers, more choice and control over how their needs are met, including through direct payments from the local authority.

However, the Convention of Scottish Local Authorities said they estimate the figure could be almost four times as much – anywhere between £50m to £90m.

While there is cross party support for the Bill, combined with backing from leading third sector care organisations, Cosla says the new care package will result in a “seismic shift” in costs for local authorities.

Duncan McNeil MSP, convener of Holyrood’s Health and Sport Committee, told TFN he was perplexed by CoSLA’s estimates and challenged it to justify the figures.

He said: “Our committee supports the principle that people should have the choice as to how their social care is provided.

“However, this legislation requires fundamental changes within local authorities to deliver this. Our committee is calling for confirmation from the Scottish Government that sufficient funding will be in place.

“It is completely unacceptable that the committee has not been able to determine if the funding gap identified by Cosla is real or imaginary. It is vital for witnesses to be able to substantiate assertions made in evidence to this parliament.”

The Health and Sport Committee is backing the policy in its report on the first stage of the legislation’s progress through the Scottish Parliament.

The Scottish Government will make £23 million available between 2012-13 and 2014-15 to help councils meet the cost of changes through the Bill.

Cosla told the committee its figure falls short of the most conservative estimates. It suggested the likely costs will be more than £90 million over three years, based on median estimates from councils.

The committee noted the disparity, adding: “The committee considers that the failure of Cosla to share the detail of individual council costs estimates was unacceptable as it prevented the committee from being able to determine whether implementation of the Bill may be jeopardised by a significant gap in funding.”

Councillor Peter Johnston, Cosla’s health spokesman, said the “seismic shift” of the change should not be underestimated. He added: “We used information individual councils provided us with to estimate possible costs across Scotland. We shared this with partners in good faith, and with an acknowledgement of the difficulties we all face in producing accurate estimates.”

Theresa Shearer, Enable Scotland’s Executive Director of Corporate and Strategic Planning said the SDS Bill had wide approva but all parties had to find a way of making it more efficient as it is rolled out.

She said: “The SDS Bill has been well received by the sector. This legislation is an important step on the journey to putting every person in control of the support they need to live the life of their choice.

“The third sector, local authorities and the Scottish Government will need to work together to find scalable implementation solutions.

“Enable Scotland is currently working with 22 local authorities who are all at different stages of implementation. This is allowing us to learn from the approaches of each local authority and ultimately shape improvements for individuals.”

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