CHILDREN services risk being the “Cinderella” of the new National Care Service, Barnardos has warned.

Giving evidence to Holyrood’s Education, Children and Young People committee, the charity’s director, Martin Crewe, said he was worried about the legislation which will massively reform care services.

Functions and staff currently managed by local authorities and health boards will come under the control of new ‘care boards’ directly accountable to Scottish ministers.

There is anxiety among children’s groups and social workers around the design of the new service, with fears that child social care could end up being taken into a service primarily designed for adults.

But equally not being part of the system could have a knock-on effect on whole family support.

"I think there's a danger of being either in or out of it," Mr Crewe told the committee.

“We currently spend around five times more on adults’ social care than we do on children's social care. So the reality is that Children's Services is the Cinderella here."

He said they were not sure "whether we're going to be invited to the ball or not." 

“And to stretch the analogy a little bit. If we do get a ticket, the music will probably already be playing. And it might be a waltz, whereas we'd rather have a disco.”

He told the committee: “We've got a quarter of children in poverty across Scotland. We've got many families who were just coping, being pushed over the edge now into the cost of living crisis. 

“We've got existing services that are stretched and the thresholds of support to families are far higher than the early intervention that we would all like to see. 

“We've got the prospect of further austerity and public service cuts. We've got a retention and recruitment crisis within social care staff. 

“And on top of all of that, we're trying to introduce The Promise. And you put all of that together and you say, okay, well, will the National Care Service address and improve things? 

“You know, it doesn't really scratch the surface on a lot of those issues.”

Jude Currie, Chair, of the Scottish Association of Social Work said her members were concerned about the relationships between services, and worried that the reform could see them moved further away from the decision-making. 

She said there was already “so much stress in the system and distress in the system.”

“Our members, including myself, will work with a whole family network and that will include engaging with criminal justice, social work, health services, education, housing, all in one meeting. 

“For every ounce of depleted energy that we spend trying to navigate perhaps even more complicated structures because we're perhaps outside or, or distant from what we need, it just takes away from the relational energy we need to be spending to help children and families benefit and realise their rights from the services.”

Ms Currie said that even if children’s services were not included in the National Care Service framework it would still have an impact. 

Social workers working with a 14-year-old now may need social care support in adult services within the next few years, but “the apprehension that we are engaging with starts now, our work with that family starts now.”