Social workers to gain bigger role in planning services

Social workers will have a bigger service planning role and adult social care funding will be increased under proposals to merge health and social care in Scotland, claims the country's government.

Social workers are to gain a bigger role in planning local services under Scottish government plans to fully integrate adult social care and health.

Adult social care funding will also be increased under the proposals, which will create fully pooled resources in every local authority area that “eliminate the distinction between health and social care budgets”.

The plans, issued for consultation this week, are designed to cut unnecessary hospital admissions, shift care from acute into community settings and provide service users with a more seamless care experience and better outcomes. 

“With the shift in the balance of care from acute care to community care, we expect that the amount of commissioned social care will increase and therefore the amount spent on social care will increase,” the consultation paper said.

The key proposals are that:-

  • NHS boards and local authorities will by law have to create health and social care partnerships in every local authority area, replacing existing community health partnerships.
  • Health and social care partnerships will manage a pooled budget, covering all adult social care and community health services, and some acute hospital services.
  • Partnerships will be run by a jointly accountable officer, who will report to the chief executive of the relevant NHS board and local authority.
  • NHS boards and councils, through partnerships, will be under a duty to deliver on national outcomes that cut across health and social care.
  • Social workers and health professionals will have a stronger role in planning services in localities within each partnership area, with local planning groups set up with devolved decision-making and budgetary responsibilities.

To achieve the latter, health boards and councils will be under a duty to consult professionals on setting up and reviewing service planning arrangements in localities, though the consultation asks whether this duty would be strong enough to ensure social workers and other practitioners are fully involved.

The implications of the proposals for the management and employment of social workers and other council social care staff will vary from area to area.

In Highland, seen as a model for health and social care integration in Scotland, the council is delegating its adult social care functions to the NHS board, leading to the transfer of council staff to the health body. However, the Scottish government has vowed not to impose a single organisational model on local partners.

It has also promised to examine issues around the professional accountability of staff where social care professionals are managed by health staff and vice versa.

The consultation runs until 31 July 2012.

Image: Rex

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