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Friday, 2 March, 2001, 19:40 GMT
Committee critical of care bill
elderly people
The committee has criticised parts of the care bill
The Scottish Parliament's Health Committee has criticised key parts of a bill to regulate care services and social workers.

MSPs raised concerns over a fees system and inspection regime and an apparent lack of detail in some areas of the bill.

But despite its concerns the committee said parliament should approve the general principles behind the Regulation of Care (Scotland) Bill.

Convenor Margaret Smith said: "Overall our committee is satisfied with the general thrust of the bill and welcomes its broad principles.

With the executive's proposals it appears that providers may well receive fewer inspections each year at an increased price

Margaret Smith
"However there are certain important aspects of the bill where witnesses expressed concern or felt unable to give informed opinions due to a lack of detail from the Scottish Executive.

"Most notably, witnesses from all sectors expressed concern over proposals for the self-funding of regulation through a system of fees levied upon care providers."

She said the committee had pressed the Deputy Minister for Health, Malcolm Chisholm, to consider paying for the system from central funds.

"However at the time of publication of our report we had still to receive a satisfactory response," she said.

nurse and woman
The bill would regulate care and social services
The Convention of Scottish Local Authorities (Cosla) criticised the proposed move to self-financing through fees from 2004-05.

Giving evidence to the committee it said: "We believe that that is unrealistic, because it will involve a significant increase in fees.

"We also suggest that moving money from one set of public bodies to another public body from local authorities to the proposed commission will not make the best use of the community care pound."

The independent sector, represented by Scottish Care, told the committee registration fees could rise considerably under the proposals.

They said that costs could go up by as much as 3% and warned: "We are concerned about the effect on our businesses."

Ms Smith said that the committee shared concerns over the "diminution of present services" for inspecting care providers.

"With the executive's proposals it appears that providers may well receive fewer inspections each year at an increased price."

She accepted that two inspections per year might not be appropriate for all care provision.

But she added that residential and non-residential care should be examined as "separate elements" with resources targeted to the areas of greatest risk.

Under scrutiny

The bill was brought forward after ministers decided that the current system of regulation was flawed.

They said the system lacked independence from local authorities, was not integrated and produced different standards of service across Scotland.

The bill aims to establish an independent Scottish Commission to regulate care services in Scotland against a set of national care standards.

It will also set up a council to regulate social service workers and promote their education and training.

The bill was introduced in parliament on last year by Health Minister Susan Deacon.

The committee was put in charge of scrutinising the bill and under parliamentary rules it had to report to parliament on the general principles.

More than 40,000 people, including children and the elderly, live in residential nursing or care homes across Scotland.

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