Free personal care under threat

Older people in parts of Scotland are being denied care home places and domiciliary services because councils have run out of funding.

Evidence of the problem – which could undermine Scotland’s flagship free personal care policy – emerged during two debates in the Scottish parliament last week.

Ewan Findlay, a national committee member of care home umbrella body Scottish Care, said residential care referrals in Dundee had “dwindled almost to a stop” following an overspend.

He told the Scottish health committee’s inquiry into free personal care: “I have been told the waiting list is 30 people. There is now capacity in Dundee where there was not capacity before. If councils approach the end of their budgets with no money left to place people, the policy on free personal care is not working.”

Describing the situation as “crazy”, Findlay said councils needed to spread their personal care budgets more evenly over the year.

And MSP Jamie McGrigor told parliament he had been “horrified” to find the same problem in Argyll and Bute. “Not one home care package has been arranged since November and there have been no referrals from the Oban Hospital to nursing homes since Christmas.”

He said the lack of care packages and referrals had “impinged on the hospital, resulting in bed blocking and delayed discharge”.

A spokesperson for Argyll and Bute Council said the residential care waiting list was four times higher than normal while 68 people were also awaiting domiciliary care services because of the cash crisis.

Alan McKeown, health and social care policy manager at the Convention of Scottish Local Authorities, said people assessed as eligible for personal care should receive it but it depended on money being available. He said that councils do not want to say no to people, but the budgetary reality is personal care cannot be provided “unless an active decision is taken to cut budgets for other priorities”.


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