Doubt cast over free personal care plans

The Scottish executive’s estimated costs of introducing
free personal care are seriously flawed and highly under-estimated,
according to an economic analysis just published.

In the report written by Dr Jim Cuthbert, a former Scottish
Office chief statistician, and his partner, Margaret Cuthbert, an
economist and business consultant, the couple claim that the care
development group, which formulated the proposals for the
executive, did not make sufficient provision for the potential
demand for services in their financial estimates of free personal

The independent economic analysis, first published last week in
the Journal of the Institute of Chartered Finance and
, claims that 118,000 older people in Scotland will
be potential care seekers. This additional demand could swell the
costs of implementing the Royal Commission on Long Term Care for
the Elderly’s recommendations to £368 million after
three years, many times more than estimated by the executive.

The Cuthberts claim that the discrepancy in costs is so huge
that “the Scottish executive could well find itself in a position
where it is either under pressure to implement the Scottish
flexibility on income tax or to re-open with Westminster the whole
question of the funding of the Scottish parliament”.

The report claims the care development group figures are wrong
in underestimating personal care costs by £35 per individual
per week, the cost of living costs currently being renegotiated
upwards with the private sector, the amount of unmet need and that
the withdrawal of attendance allowance by Westminster for those
receiving free personal care, which is likely to cost the executive
£20 million per year.

With the appointment of Jack McConnell as the new first minister
last week, political pundits have questioned whether he will go
through with his predecessor’s policy of introducing free
personal care given that it was originally rejected by the majority
of the ministers including Susan Deacon, minister for health and
community care.

A Scottish executive spokesperson refused to respond to the
independent challenge to costs, but acknowledged: “Jack McConnell
has said he wants to see financial projections to check the means
by which this is being financed.”

Meanwhile, the proposals to introduce free personal care have
been formally supported by the highly influential health committee
of the Scottish parliament, but with conditions. Margaret Smith,
chairperson of the health committee who led many revolts on behalf
of the implementing the royal commission’s recommendations,
said: “A definition of free personal care should be laid down
explicitly in statute.”

If successful, this will allow care of older people and
campaigning organisations to try and broaden the definition of
personal care used by the royal commission, having criticised it as
being too narrow. The health committee is also seeking a definition
of principles underlying free personal care, a guarantee of future
funding, and claims that any move to block attendance allowance to
people in Scotland would be discriminatory given
Westminster’s decision to continue that benefit to those in
England and Wales in receipt of free nursing care.


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