Last August, the Scottish Government began a twelve-week consultation on the creation of a National Care Service, with a proposal that it would include children and families. The Promise Scotland took time to consider and respond to the consultation, concluding there was no clear evidence as to whether to include children and families, or not.
As The Promise Oversight Board said in their recent report, "The uncertainty created by this consultation interrupted and delayed both the process and the pace of change for ten months. This is not new. The perpetual motion of reviews, inquiries and commissions, examining intersectional issues from different angles, is a major contributor to Scotland’s policy ‘implementation gap’."
The unwelcome hiatus created by the consultation, a year and a half into the beginning of a ten-year timeframe to #KeepThePromise, devoured energy and resources, and provided - for those who wanted to avoid change - something to hide behind. It hindered the work beginning to improve the lives of children and families.
Yesterday, the Scottish Government laid a Bill before parliament that provides a framework for the creation of a National Care Service. The Bill allows for Scottish Ministers to make a final decision, at a later date, about the inclusion, or not, of children’s services. Government indicates this decision will be taken before the National Care Service begins its operation from 2025.
The decision will be informed by an evidence base, with government commissioning independent research and consulting to assess implementation of The Promise in ‘both integrated and non-integrated areas’.
This approach to an evidence-led future for children’s social care hopefully provides a degree of comfort and clarity for all those committed to #KeepThePromise.
And, whilst it is welcome, the continued lack of absolute certainty is likely to create continued uncertainty.
So, not without risk.
It is crucial that the wait for this final decision does not contribute to inaction or permit paralysis.
Here we are five and a half years on from when it was recognised that Scotland needed to change, two years on from when a promise was made to change, and eight years left to make all the changes.
Scotland has an existing, long overdue commitment to support families to stay together and support children who live in and around the 'care system' to have their rights upheld and to be cared for in ways that enable them to thrive.
Children and families need change now. The wait for a final decision must not be allowed to become a further distraction, that sucks up precious time, or thwarts work in progress to Keep the Promise. Traction is giving cause for hope and real, sustained change and must not be derailed.
Two years until a final decision in 2025, that is a long time in a childhood.