Problems in funding free personal care in Scotland need resolving

Problems in funding free personal care for older people in Scotland must be resolved if the success of the policy is not to be undermined, a major inquiry has found.

The Scottish Parliament’s health committee said the policy, introduced in 2003, had provided “greater security and dignity” to many older people, but demand was “out-stripping” available resources in many of the country’s local authorities.

The committee, which received more than 100 written and 45 oral submissions to its inquiry, launched last September, said the Scottish executive should carry out a “thorough review” of resources required by councils to “adequately finance” free personal care.

During the inquiry it heard evidence that almost half of Scotland’s 32 councils were operating waiting lists for free care, and that there was confusion over whether the policy covered meal preparation costs, which were being charged for by some councils but not by others.

Councils said their total funding of £147 million in 2004-5 left them with a shortfall of £73 million to provide free personal care.

The committee recommended that meal preparation costs, where part of an assessed need, should be covered under free personal care.

It also said the executive should “remove the financial incentive” for councils to delay assessments for free care by introducing a mandatory deadline for assessments, or allowing claims for free care to be backdated from the point of eligibility, rather than assessment.

Committee convenor Roseanna Cunningham said evidence suggested there were “real problems with funding in some areas”.

She added: “The policy of free personal care will only be effective and equitable if it is sustainable in the long term.”

The committee’s inquiry also looked at the operation of Scotland’s social care regulator, the Care Commission, and found there was “duplication and overlap” between its work and that of local authorities, particularly in the housing support field.

It said the executive should make it mandatory for councils and the regulator to have agreements on the inspection and monitoring of care services, and that a duty should be placed on the Care Commission to share information collected from care services.

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