The Welsh assembly government’s ditching of its manifesto pledge of free home care for disabled people because it claims it cannot afford to pay for the policy last month has angered campaigners. Amy Taylor talks to Sarah Stone, head of public affairs at Age Concern Cymru, about the issue.
What do you think about the assembly going back on its pledge?
We are appalled that it has gone back on its pledge. It was a clear promise that would have been beneficial for so many older people and disabled people across Wales. We are talking about some of the neediest people in the community.
What may some of the consequences of it be?
We are particularly concerned that disability related expenditure isn’t taken into account under the fair access to care guidance (assembly guidance for local authorities on charging for care) because obviously there are additional costs related to being disabled. Also a lot of things have been put on hold due to the pledge.
The assembly says that it cannot afford to implement the policy. Do you think it should take money from elsewhere in order to enable it to do so?
The Assembly made a pledge. It based it on costings that it had done so it thought it was affordable. I think this is about justice and the cost for the injustice of charging is overwhelming. Some Scottish research actually finds that it hasn’t been unaffordable in Scotland and we don’t think it would be unaffordable here. David Bell (a professor at Stirling University which carried out research on the cost of providing free home care for disabled people in Wales which the welsh assembly based its decision on) found £22m is raised in Wales through charging but what his research doesn’t illustrate is how much it costs to collect the money.
Does the £76m package of support for older people, disabled people and carers over the next two years announced by health and social services minister Brian Gibbons in place of the pledge make up for the u-turn at all?
Any additional support is very welcome and we need annual support for community care services but it’s about something different. It doesn’t address those things that abolishing charging would address because the package will be sent through local authorities and it’s not the same as somebody being able to keep some of their income [which would be achieved by providing free home care as people wouldn’t have to contribute to it.