Executive forced to publish free personal care plans for older people

Free personal care will be introduced in Scotland from April
next year it was revealed as the Scottish executive was forced to
publish plans early following an embarrassing mistake on its
website, writes Reg McKay.

Last Friday, the recommendations of the care development group,
entitled Fair Care for Older People, were published on the Scottish
executive’s website in error, a fortnight before their
release date.

When the mistake was spotted the recommendations were promptly
removed, but not before copies had been downloaded by the
Conservative Party among others. Late on Friday night the plans
were officially published.

The proposals of the twelve member care development group
chaired by Malcolm Chisholm, deputy minister for community care,
will be implemented in April next year at a cost of an extra
£125 million per annum. Personal care and nursing care for
those with an assessed need will be paid up to a maximum of
£90 and £65 per week respectively.

The group has followed the definition of personal care as
presented by the Royal Commission on Long Term Care for the Elderly
which “includes the provision of non medical services which involve
close personal care and touching”. For those people suffering from
dementia the definition of personal care will include psychological
support and counselling.

The timing of the publication of the plans wrong footed campaign
groups many of whom are expected to criticise the proposals as not
going far enough. The report anticipates these criticisms by
stating that because “the cost of care is likely to rise in real
terms over the years…It is therefore important that changes
introduced are sustainable”.

Maureen O’Neill, director of Age Concern Scotland,
welcomed the plans and said: “The group is to be congratulated on
coming up with workable and affordable solutions which will ensure
that all older people in Scotland who need personal care will get
it free of charge.”

Other recommendations include transitional arrangements whereby
those people currently funding their own care will receive the
maximum contribution towards their personal and nursing care
without further assessment. Those people who are currently funded
at 100 per cent will continue to be so while all others will pay
for the residential living costs of their care.

From a date, yet to specified, all new applicants for care will
be assessed on the new criteria. For those currently receiving the
defined personal care at home, all charging will cease from April
next year.

The care development group makes strong recommendations that the
emphasis on service development be on helping people stay in their
own homes as long as possible and state “of the new financial
provision at least £50 million should be devoted to securing a
step-change in the provision of home care services for older

Single shared assessment between social work and health is to be
finalised nationally by April 2002 thus avoiding service users
unnecessary duplication of assessment. The new funding is to be
ring-fenced while existing budgets are to be set against “clear
outcome agreements agreed among local authorities, the NHS and the
Scottish executive”.

O’Neill said: “The report is practical and achievable and
we now need the political commitment from all parties to make its
recommendations a reality.”


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