Cash crises jeopardise free personal care in Scotland

The Scottish executive’s plans for the care of older
people face a series of cash crises that could jeopardise the
introduction of free personal care, writes Reg

This week, the executive confirmed that they had lost the
argument with Westminster’s department of work and pensions
(DWP), which has refused to continue paying attendance allowance
benefits to those in receipt of free personal care. Hugh Henry,
deputy minister for health and community care, told the health
committee of the Scottish Parliament that the executive “could not
wait any longer” for the DWP and had called off talks. This creates
a £23 million shortfall in the executive’s financial
plans for this year.

Meanwhile, the Convention of Scottish Local Authorities, the
Scottish executive and the private care home owners group Scottish
Care have reached agreement on the levels of charges for
residential and nursing home care of older people, but not on who
pays. New fee levels create a gap of £50 million per annum
between current budgets and new requirements.

Cosla wants the executive to meet the whole costs. The executive
has demanded that local authorities find £25 million. A
spokesperson for Cosla said: “There has been under funding in
community care since its inception in 1993. Cosla has made it clear
that such a catch-up would be a massive burden on local government,
and would have to be fully funded by the executive.”

Scottish Care warned that if the issue is not resolved soon the
sector could witness unprecedented closures. Joe Campbell, chief
executive of Scottish Care, said many home owners were surviving on
overdrafts on the understanding that the new, increased fees would
be paid by April.

Campbell said: “If that does not happen many homes will go into
liquidation.” He added that the scale of the closures would make
the executive’s plans on free personal care an “irrelevance”
by reducing resources to critical levels.

The executive has always insisted that the finances for free
personal care have been set aside, but these recent developments
could see a need for an additional £73 million per annum to be
raised above the original costings of £125 million.

Last week, Alexis Jay, director of social work and housing for
West Dunbartonshire council and chairperson of the implementation
group on free personal care, succeeded in convincing Jack
McConnell, first minister, that the implementation date should be
postponed by three months until July. Jay cited “technical ”
reasons including the reassessment of needs of 70,000 people, but
she also conceded that no-one could know the full extent of the
demand of people now seeking services that are free.

Malcolm Chisholm, minister of health and community care, is to
meet with Cosla and Scottish Care in an effort to resolve the
dispute over charging.




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