Scotland’s National Care Service Bill will be delayed for a second time, a Government minister has announced.
MSPs were set to have their first vote on the legislation in June but Maree Todd confirmed on Monday that it would be pushed back until after the summer.
The social care minister said the extension would allow time for the Scottish Government to find a “compromise and reach consensus” with those who have expressed concern over the Bill.
Under the changes, adult social care – and potentially other areas including drug and alcohol services and children’s services – would be taken out of the hands of local authorities and given to newly formed, regional care boards which would ultimately be responsible to ministers.
The Bill has been criticised by opposition parties, local authorities and trade unions who accuse the Scottish Government of a lack of detail in its plans.
The first vote was originally scheduled for March but was pushed back until June to allow the SNP leadership contest to go ahead.
In a letter to the health, social care and sports committee, Todd said this will now be extended beyond the summer recess to allow the Scottish Government time to continue engagement with Scotland’s social care workforce, as well as those who use the service.
Following the letter, Todd said: “We remain committed to delivering a National Care Service that ensures consistent, high-quality social care support and community healthcare that meets peoples’ needs across the country.
“Change on this scale is substantial, and an extension to the stage one deadline for the National Care Service (Scotland) Bill will allow both the Scottish Parliament and the Scottish Government the necessary time to consider all of the evidence in taking the Bill forward.
“It is crucial that we build a National Care Service that best meets the needs of the people it will serve, which is why I am committed to doing all we can so that those with experience of social care support and community healthcare have sufficient chance to share their views.
“Over the summer, we’ll expand our co-design activity even further to reach people all across the country and keep them at the heart of what will be the single biggest public sector reform since the creation of the NHS.”
Craig Hoy MSP, the Scottish Conservative shadow social care minister, called on the Scottish Government to scrap the Bill entirely.
He said: “Continuing to kick plans for their reckless and unaffordable National Care Service into the long grass is simply not good enough from the SNP.
“Every stakeholder has lined up against these proposals to centralise care services but still the SNP refuse to listen.
“It is time for the SNP – including Humza Yousaf who backed these plans as health secretary – to ditch this power grab on local services for good.
“Social care services are in crisis across Scotland on the SNP’s watch and the last thing they need is this bureaucratic nightmare and more oversight from SNP ministers.
“The Scottish Conservatives have voiced their opposition to a National Care Service since they were first unveiled and it is time the SNP listen to our calls to divert every penny earmarked for it to local care services instead.”
Scottish Liberal Democrat leader and health spokesperson Alex Cole-Hamilton MSP said: “This is a last-ditch attempt to buy some time for support that’s never going to emerge. The National Care Service is a billion-pound bureaucratic ministerial power grab- it needs scrapped, not salvaged.
“Scottish Liberal Democrats are the only party to have stood up against these flawed proposals from day one. The Government’s plans would consume gargantuan amounts of money and time without addressing the problems at the root of social care.
“This is money that needs to be spent on frontline services and staff who are firefighting on every shift.”