Free personal care policy hits funding problem

The Scottish executive’s free personal care for older people
policy has run into trouble after a local authority refused to
tighten the rules covering eligibility for free personal and
nursing care, writes Nicola Barry. 

Highland councillors were asked to approve stricter criteria for
eligibility and introduce a waiting list for less urgent cases.
Other proposals included setting a £145 ceiling for people
paying for care in their own homes.

More than 75,000 people living north of the border became
eligible for free care last July.

Highland council received just over £4 million from the
Scottish executive to meet the costs of providing free personal and
nursing care in its area. However, demand has proven to be higher
than predicted.

Jess Barrow, of Age Concern Scotland, said the Highland proposal
had been contrary to the report from the Royal Commission on Long
Term Care for the Elderly, which led to the introduction of free
personal care.

“Somewhere along the way, the arithmetic has gone wrong where
people in residential care homes are concerned. The shortfall in
funding concerns those people,” he said.

Gary Coutts, chairperson of the housing and social work
committee, said: “The introduction of free personal care was always
going to be very complex. There was no way of accurately assessing
total demand. We knew how many people already receiving care would
qualify to have their costs met, but we could not accurately
estimate all the others that might emerge.

“It is early days. We are being careful we don’t run up
deficits and leave vulnerable people at risk,” he said.

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