A comprehensive plan and timescale for social care reform needs to be set out quickly by the Scottish Government, Audit Scotland has warned.
The SNP said during the election campaign they would create a national care service on par with the NHS if re-elected, a position also shared by Labour and the Scottish Greens.
But Scotland’s Government watchdog has called on the Scottish Government to lay out what the service would look like, and when it would be in place.
The SNP manifesto said the service would be created within this parliamentary term, and a plan for the first 100 days of the new term endorsed by Nicola Sturgeon said a consultation would be launched.
Audit Scotland’s Antony Clark, interim controller of audit and interim director of performance audit and best value, wrote in a blog post: “More detailed work and engagement is required by the Scottish Government on understanding demand and the cost of providing new models of care and how it will be funded.
“A clear plan and timescales are also needed quickly.”
The post also said that implementation of the recommendations of the Feeley report – an independent review of adult social care in Scotland – would cost at least £660 million extra per year, on top of an expected rise in social care spending of £2.8 billion to £6.8 billion by 2035.
But the SNP manifesto said social care would see an increase in annual spending of £800 million in this parliamentary term.
Mr Clark said it was not yet clear how the Scottish Government planned to pay for the increases.
“Feeley and other recent reports are broadly agreed: the current approach to providing social care support in Scotland needs to change, and the pandemic has made existing issues worse,” he wrote.
“As more people are living with complex health and care needs and the population gets older, not everyone is receiving the support they need.
“Demand for care at home and giving people more choice and control over their own lives is also rising.
“But the new models of care required to tackle these trends – involving the public, private and third sectors – will cost more money and it’s not clear how they will be funded.”
The Feeley report outlined a number of ways for revenue to fund the recommendations could be raised, most of which involved the tax system – including the creation of a new local tax, seeking greater powers of taxation or changing existing levels.
A Scottish Government spokeswoman said: “We want our social care system to consistently deliver high quality services across Scotland, and that is why we will establish a national care service in this parliamentary term.
“This service will oversee the delivery of care, improve standards, ensure enhanced pay and conditions for workers. It will provide better support for unpaid carers, and as part of a rights-based approach, we will strengthen residents’ rights in adult residential settings.
“This transformation in social care can only be delivered with increased investment. We will increase public investment in social care by 25% over the parliament, delivering over £800 million of increased support for social care.”