Executive under pressure to meet extra costs of free personal care

The Scottish executive’s plans for the care of
older people face cash crises that could jeopardise the
introduction of free personal care.

The executive has always insisted that free
personal care funding has been set aside but recent developments at
the Department for Work and Pensions and in the care home sector
could see the need for an extra £73m per year in addition to
the original estimate of £125m.

Last week, the executive confirmed it had lost
the argument with the DWP over its refusal to continue paying
attendance allowance benefits to those in receipt of free personal
care – creating a £23m shortfall in this year’s financial
plans. The executive’s deputy health and community care minister
Hugh Henry told the Scottish parliament’s health committee that the
executive “could not wait any longer” for the DWP and had called
off talks.

Meanwhile, negotiations between the Convention
of Scottish Local Authorities (Cosla), the executive and the
private care home owners’ group Scottish Care had resolved the
level of care home fees, but not who pays. The agreement means
there is a shortfall of £50m per year in the current

Cosla wants the executive to meet the whole
costs, but the executive has demanded that local authorities find
£25m. A Cosla spokesperson 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.
Chief executive Joe Campbell said many home owners were surviving
on overdrafts on the understanding that the new, increased fees
would be paid by April.

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

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
first minister Jack McConnell that the implementation date should
be postponed by three months until July. She cited technical
reasons, including the reassessment of needs of 70,000 people, but
also conceded that no one knew the numbers of people now seeking
free services.

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

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