‘Implement free personal care now’

The Royal Commission on Long-Term Care has issued a statement
calling for the full implementation of its 1999 report, which
recommended free personal care for older people.

The statement from nine members of the commission, published this
week, said: “Many of the current generation of older people and
their families continue to feel betrayed by the failure of what
they had been led to believe was a ‘cradle to grave’ welfare state
to fund their care properly.”

Commissioners revisited the report because they felt “little has
been resolved” and because governments in most of the UK had still
declined to act. The Scottish executive decided to follow the
commission’s recommendation on free personal care. But in England,
Wales and Northern Ireland it is still charged for and nursing care
is only free if provided by a registered nurse. Thresholds for
means testing are also set lower in Scotland.

The statement said:”Some are struggling inappropriately with care
at home because they cannot afford the residential care they need.
Others are bitter at the enforced loss of their home, and of the
dignity that goes with it, to pay for their care.”

The statement added that, although 70 per cent of older people in
long-term care receive some state help with the costs, many still
had to sell their homes and use the proceeds to pay for care “and
so suffer the indignity of being reduced to penury before state
support kicks in”.

A survey of local authorities by Liberal Democrat spokesperson Paul
Burstow found that, since Labour came to power, an estimated
420,000 people had to sell their homes to pay for basic personal
care.

Burstow said: “Ministers are treating the elderly in England like
third-class citizens. Their failure to follow Scotland’s lead on
free personal care should haunt Tony Blair.”

Annie Stevenson, the senior policy adviser for health and social
care at Help the Aged, said: “Long-term care is in disarray and is
an issue that won’t go away until the government deals with it
properly.

“We believe that the failure of the government to implement some of
the Royal Commission’s key recommendations at the time was a missed
opportunity.”

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