Draft amendments to independent advocacy provision in National Care Service Bill published

The National Care Service (Scotland) Bill is still making its way through the Scottish Parliament and is now at Stage 2 with the Health, Social Care and Sport Committee. The National Care Service (NCS) Bill allows Scottish Ministers to transfer social care responsibility from local authorities to a new, national service. This could include adult and children’s services, as well as areas such as justice social work. Scottish Ministers will also be able to transfer healthcare functions from the NHS to the National Care Service.

The NCS Bill could make significant changes to how social care works in Scotland and therefore have a huge impact on people that currently access independent advocacy and social care. SIAA have worked for several years to influence the Bill around independent advocacy, for example we have

Through all of our work we have consistently highlighted the importance of independence, sustainable resourcing for the sector, supporting local and grassroots providers of independent advocacy, the value of using different models of independent advocacy and the link independent advocacy has to human rights. We are hopeful that provision will be made within the Bill and guidance to ensure more people can access independent advocacy when needed if they get social care.

The NCS Bill as introduced including section 13 on independent advocacy which SIAA welcomed, particularly the explicit inclusion of ‘independent advocacy’, which said “The Scottish Ministers may by regulations make provision about the provision of independent advocacy services in connection with the services that the National Care Service provides.”

Unfortunately, draft amendments published last week diluted the original wording around independent advocacy which reads as follows:

Independent advice, information and advocacy

The Scottish Ministers may by regulations make provision about the provision of independent advice, information and advocacy services in connection with the services that the National Care Service provides.”

The letter from the Minister detailing the amendments highlights on pages 10 and 14 that the asks and contributions of SIAA and member organisations have been heard: “Members [of ELAG] were pleased to see independent advocacy included in the Bill. However, some members were concerned that current funding is not enough and to make meaningful improvements will need more resources. Some members suggested there is a lack of clarity on what regulations could be brought forward. They expressed their desire for an explicit right to independent advocacy. They also said there should be a duty requiring Scottish Ministers to make provision about independent advocacy to be included in primary legislation.” However, this has not been reflected in the amendments. Unfortunately, as a member of the ELAG we were not provided with the wording of proposed amendments from Scottish Government just the policy intentions behind them. SIAA have already had a constructive conversation with civil servants working on the NCS Bill and they have suggested that SIAA’s and members’ evidence to the Stage 2 Call for Views is crucial and can positively shape the draft amendment to include independent advocacy.

SIAA will continue to advocate for improvements to the independent advocacy provision within the Bill and will be keeping members up to date with this work. Please get in touch with Rhona if you have comments or would like to discuss further – rhona.willder@siaa.org.uk

Next steps

  • Seeking meetings with MSPs on Health, Social Care and Sport Committee.
  • Working with civil society organisations on alternative amendments to the Bill on independent advocacy.
  • Responding to the Scottish Parliament’s Health, Social Care and Sport Committee Stage 2 Call for Views by 30 August 2024.
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