THIS week's Councillor Column is written by Cllr Richard Trail (SNP, Helensburgh and Lomond South).

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A REVOLUTION is in the offing. It promises to transform social care in Scotland, much as the birth of the NHS did for medical services.

The plan has been sketched out in a government report which was published earlier this year. It is ambitious with the aim of putting social care services on a par with health services.

The report, The Independent Review of Adult Social Care in Scotland, spells out what is wrong with the present system and offers a vision of a future social care system that is comprehensive, fair and affordable.

The National Care Service will sit alongside the National Health Service on an equal footing. The report seeks to overturn the widely held view that social care is a burden on society, and instead emphasises it as an investment in our people.

Up till now, social care has been the responsibility of local government. The change that took place five or six years ago in setting up ‘integration joint boards’ across Scotland to look after health and social care under a single umbrella always looked like a temporary fix.

All across the country the joint boards have struggled to make it work within budget. The struggles of the Argyll and Bute joint board to make ends meet at the area’s health and social care partnership have been well covered in the Advertiser over the last few years.

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The concept of bringing health and social care closer together is, in itself, a sensible way to improve the experience of patients. Much money is wasted by patients being kept in an NHS hospital bed when they could have been cared for in the community, as most patients, their families and the NHS would all wish. The tight grip that is kept on the funding of social care leads to waste in the NHS.

The proposal to make major changes to Scotland’s social care service is out for consultation until Monday, October 18. If the proposals go ahead, this will be a major change not only in structure, but also culture in the care sector.

Local government will cease to have responsibility for commissioning the service, but may continue to provide a service through the care homes that it owns. This will be a big loss in funding to councils.

Social care currently will typically take about 20 per cent of the annual grants awarded to each of Scotland’s local authorities. Some will see this as a hollowing out of local government services, and will not welcome this change.

What is undeniable is that social care currently is not working as well as it should. The staff who provide the service to some of our most vulnerable people are underpaid and overworked. The service is under-resourced and it is unlikely that the government will ever adequately resource it under the current arrangements.

The new national care service will be directly accountable to government ministers, and that will concentrate minds to adequately fund it.