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It is a pleasure to take part in today’s debate on social care. As we know, social care covers all forms of personal and practical help for children, young people and adults who need extra support. It covers services such as care homes and other types of help, including supporting unpaid carers.
The Conservative manifesto contains one expensive pledge on the future financing of social care, saying that
“nobody needing care should be forced to sell their home to pay for it.”
It seems to me that the Conservatives have a large hole in their manifesto costing, which would imply additional tax increases, more borrowing or public spending cuts elsewhere. It remains to be seen what comes to pass.
Social care is a wide-ranging topic and in Scotland it is of course devolved. We are proud of what we have achieved in Scotland and what we continue to achieve using our devolved powers. All four UK national health services face many of the same challenges of increasing demand, workforce shortages and tight finances, but the NHS in England has of course faced almost a decade of unprecedented austerity. In Scotland we do some things differently from the rest of the UK. For example, the Scottish Government spend 43% more per head on social care. We are the only country in the UK with free personal care, which we recently extended to all under-65s who need it, and that now benefits nearly 80,000 people, including more than 10,000 self-funders in care homes. It gives people peace of mind and security. That is not without cost and challenges, but it helps to reduce delayed discharges and it reduces emergency admissions, and on balance it is estimated to be cost-effective. The Scottish experience would certainly support the call for the UK Government to bring forward plans for free personal care elsewhere in the UK.
Despite UK Government cuts to the Scottish budget, in Scotland we are continuing to invest in social care and integration, and the integration is one of the most significant reforms since the creation of the NHS. Of course the devolved Administrations do not operate in isolation and policy decisions from Westminster continue to have an impact on social care. Brexit, for example, is going to be potentially catastrophic for the Scottish social care sector, and while we remain within the Union it will impact upon us.
The Expert Advisory Group on Migration and Population report warns of the damage that ending free movement will inflict on social care in Scotland, saying
“the overall reduction in EU immigration would be especially challenging for those sectors most reliant on lower-paid, non UK workers, including occupations such as”— you’ve guessed it—