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Lib Dems slam care of the elderly

Liberal
Democrat Older people’s spokesman Paul Burstow has attacked the Westminster
government over pay for social care staff, its treatment of elderly care
workers and its refusal to follow the Scottish Executive in accepting in full
the recommendations of the Sutherland Commission on Long Term care for
pensioners.

The
Edinburgh administration is to introduce free personal and nursing care for all
pensioners who need it from April 1 next year.

Mr
Burstow said this made English and Welsh pensioners into third class citizens
and demanded big pay rises for social care staff who got less to look after
frail old people that supermarket shelf stackers.

The
£125 million package, which Scottish First Minister Henry McLeish unveiled last
week involves government payments of £90 a week for personal care in
residential homes and an additional £65 a week for those needing nursing care,
together with the removal of all charges for personal care in the community.
There will also be extra funding for local authorities to help older people to
stay in their own homes for longer. But the row over whether Alistair Darling’s
Department of Work and Pensions will continue to contribute the £20 million a
year it currently pays in attendance allowance to old people in Scotland has
still not been settled. Mr Darling is said to be resisting pressure to maintain
the £55 a week payments in view of the free care scheme, but the Scottish
Executive is understood to have budgeted to cover the shortfall if the cash is
withdrawn.

Deputy
First Minister and Scottish LibDem leader Jim Wallace said he was confident
that current negotiations would either lead to Mr Darling backing down or the
Treasury making up the difference by increasing the Scottish block grant by £20
million to reflect the saving made at Westminster.

Paul Burstow told the conference: "When it comes to care, Labour has
relegated the elderly in England to the status of third class citizens.
"By accepting the Royal Commission’s central proposal, the Scots are
offering their senior citizens a package which will work in practice, end
discrimination and deliver dignity."

And
he launched a bitter attack on general pay and conditions for elderly care
workers saying:"Today in this country Tesco pays people more to stack
shelves than a care worker earns looking after a frail elderly person. Cans of
beans are worth more than dignity in old age.

"Health
and social care are two sides of the same coin. Under investment in social care
undermines the NHS and causes gridlock in our care system."

He
demanded and end to crisis management and "better rewards for social care
staff, realism about care home fees and recognition that we need to invest in a
skilled workforce.”

Mr
Burstow published a document detailing the problems caused by bed blocking
nationwide in hospitals by the lack of nursing and convalescent care for
recovering pensioners.

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