Free personal care: elderly people want eligibility answers

    Service user groups have raised doubts over the numbers of people who would be covered under the government’s free personal care pledge.

    As reported yesterday the Department of Health has estimated that 277,000 people would be covered in the Personal Care at Home Bill.

    The measure would apply only to those living at home with high personal care needs – defined as requiring help with four or more activities of daily living, such as washing, visiting the toilet or dressing.

    But speaking during the health select committee’s inquiry into adult social care charity director for Age Concern and Help the Aged Andrew Harrop warned that the levels of current unmet need – with high levels among those aged over 80 – means it is likely that more people will enter the system.

    He said: “We really don’t know how many people will be eligible for this extra support, partly because of the people who aren’t covered by means-testing today – people who will come out of the woodwork – and we really don’t know where the levels of eligibility will be drawn.”

    The measure as a whole was praised as providing a level of free care for those who needed it the most.

    But the groups raised concerns over how this will affect service users with lower needs and the impact on hard-pressed local authorities who might be tempted to place people in residential care earlier than necessary.

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