The Week in Parliament
Westminster is in recess this week, so we have a slight pause from London-based politics. Equally, the Northern Ireland Assembly and the Welsh Senedd have not been that heavy on the consultation stories, so this week we’ll be travelling on the Caledonian Sleeper up to Edinburgh.
The major political news story from last week in England was the Government’s proposed reforms to the Health and Social Care system. Despite being a significant paper, it was not the long awaited general social care reform. England is not the only place where social care reform is being grappled with, and the current situation is being pointed to as partially the result of overdue examination of the system. In Scotland, the matter was addressed at First Ministers’ questions this week, with opposition leader Ruth Davidson pointing to significant numbers of covid related deaths in care homes.
Her allegations were backed up by a call for development and a criticism that although three reports on the social care system in Scotland had been given to the Scottish Government, no consultation was launched on the subject until 2019, closing six months before the first covid wave. Davidson highlighted that in those six months, no attempt had been made to update the guidance to care homes, guidance she said could have saved lives.
So is this a fair criticism? The consultation itself is a mysterious and elusive beast, and I can find not hide nor hair of it online, the best I can do is a couple of responses to it. Regrettably, this makes it rather difficult to assess the process behind it. The Scottish government’s consultation guidance suggests that a response should be published within 20 working days of the closing of the consultation, or reasons given why this is not possible. Being unable to locate the consultation has prevented me from assessing whether this was done, but six months does seem like rather a long time between the closing of a consultation on what was (at the time) relatively straightforward guidance and the publication of any proposed new draft guidance.
It is not for us to comment on the substance of opposition criticism, and with little to base our analysis of the process, we can’t really authoritatively comment. However, we do have quite an interest in the length of time between the end of consultations and responses/actions. In the not-too-distant future, we’re intending to take a more comprehensive look at this, as we have encountered many consultations where there are distinct differences between consultation guidance and practise. This example of doubt from Scotland is far from the sole example. Oh, and if anyone has a copy of the consultation document “Influenza Pandemic preparedness: Guidance for Health and Social Care Services in Scotland”, please do pass it along…