Social work boss rejects ‘expensive’ health-social care merger

"Expensive" structural integration of health and social care is not the solution to pressures on the system in Scotland, the Association of Directors of Social Work's incoming president has warned ministers in his inaugural speech.

“Expensive” structural integration of health and social care is not the solution to pressures on the system in Scotland, the Association of Directors of Social Work’s incoming president has warned ministers in his inaugural speech.

Andrew Lowe told the association’s annual conference this week that localised solutions provided the way forward. His comments follow concerns from council leaders over proposals from the re-elected Scottish National Party government to integrate health and adult social care, which were viewed by some as a potential NHS takeover of care across Scotland. The SNP views its plans as a way of saving money.

“The challenges we face are real,” said Lowe. “They are immense and they need a commensurate considered localised response and we really cannot afford the prolonged and expensive distraction implied by wholesales structural change.”

However, he pledged to work in partnership with the government, and acknowledged public health minister Shona Robison’s background in social work, stating that it would be foolish not listen to her.

“We need to develop confidence and trust with the incoming government and position ourselves to offer credible leadership,” he added. “We will strive to meet political aspirations whilst protecting the values we hold dear.”

Speaking to Community Care following his speech, he said: “I hope we can build a close and effective relationship. We seek to be in a position to advise as part of the normal professional relationship. Our newly formed majority government will be energetic and we must stay close to advise and to warn.”

The conference also heard lessons from the Republic of Ireland, where health and social care are integrated.

“Health and social services together is not necessarily the answer,” said assistant national director for disabilities Dr Cate Hartigan. “Clear accountability is needed. What is most important is how we work together. Focus on outcomes. It is important to let the government know that structural change doesn’t deliver.”

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