Scottish free care clarification sought

Voluntary organisations in Scotland are demanding clarification
from the Scottish executive on exactly what free care for the
elderly means.

The call follows a dramatic U-turn by one local authority on plans
to charge a 92-year old woman suffering from Alzheimer’s for help
with preparing meals.

Borders Council agreed not to charge the woman after one of her
relatives threatened legal action. However, a council spokesperson
said Borders did not want the decision to be seen as a national
precedent and called for greater clarification.

Free nursing and personal care was introduced in Scotland in July
2002. Problems have arisen over a contradiction between the
Community Care and Health Act (Scotland) 2002 and its accompanying
guidelines. According to the act, assistance with the preparation
of food is regarded as “social care” and is given without the usual
charge of £1,500. But the executive’s guidelines on free care,
which went out to all 32 local authorities, said food preparation
was “not included”.

While some organisations working with older people feel the
discrepancy is no more than a teething problem, others fear some
councils are interpreting the guidelines too narrowly to save
themselves money.

A spokesperson for charity Age Concern Scotland said there had been
other cases where free care legislation had been ignored. “There
are cases in which people have been told that they’ll have to wait
or there is not enough money available. There is not only a lack of
clarity but there also appears to be a contradiction in the
definitions that are used in the executive’s guidance and those in
the legislation. Councils are interpreting the legislation

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