Assembly scraps plans for free home care

The Welsh Assembly  government has been forced to scrap plans for free home care for disabled people because it can no longer afford to pay for the policy.Brian Gibbons

The U-turn, first reported by Community Care last month, has been widely condemned by disability campaigner and opposition politicians.

In place of the 2003 manifesto pledge health and social services minister Dr Brian Gibbons unveiled proposals for a £76 million package of support for older people, the disabled and carers over the next two years.

The package includes increasing the margin above income support before people pay charges for personal domiciliary care, £3 million to support carers of people with mental health problems, £12.5 million of capital funding for community equipment and £9 million to develop telecare services.

Gibbons also said the assembly would undertake a review of councils domiciliary charging polices.

He told assembly members yesterday he was unable to commit to the free care policy because independent research by Professor David Bell of Stirling University into the costs of implementing it suggested it would become too expensive.

“Professor Bell’s report clearly identifies the potential for a substantial growth in costs, as demand rises when services are free….ranging from 46 million to 79 million a year.

It would quickly become unsustainable” he added.

Gibbons said the new measures amounted to more money than the original commitments for free care.

Opposition politicians criticised the assembly for dumping the policy while still pushing ahead with free prescriptions for all.

Some pointed to the findings of the recent Joseph Rowntree Foundation report which found free personal care in Scotland was largely cost neutral.
Sarah Stone head of public affairs at Age concern Cymru said she was “appalled” by the decision, and it would leave many people living on the edge of poverty.

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