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Wednesday, 16 January, 2002, 13:40 GMT
Elderly care 'cave-in' criticised
Elderly patient and carer
Free elderly care will be introduced in July
The Scottish Executive has been accused of "throwing in the towel" in its dispute with London over attendance allowances for elderly people.

The Scottish National Party said the issue should have been taken to the joint ministerial committee set up under the devolution settlement.

The SNP said that without the money from the Department of Work and Pensions in London, the funding package for free personal care was in doubt.

Formal amendments to the Care Bill were brought before the Scottish Parliament's health committee on Wednesday.

Deputy Health Minister Hugh Henry
Hugh Henry: Formal amendment
The deputy health minister, Hugh Henry, told the committee that the start of free personal care for the elderly would be delayed for three months until 1 July 2002.

The executive says it has set aside 125m in each of the next two financial years to fund free personal care.

After that, funding will be allocated once the annual spending review has taken place.

However, the executive lost its battle with the Department of Work and Pensions which refused to transfer 22m in attendance allowance north of the border.

'Shortfall' claim

SNP health spokeswoman Nicola Sturgeon, who sits on the committee, said the executive decision "beggars belief".

She accused Mr Henry of caving in to London without a fight over the issue of attendance allowances.

She said 22m would be lost to Scotland every year because older people who qualified for free personal care would no longer be able to claim the 55 per week allowance.

Nicola Sturgeon
Nicola Sturgeon: "Beggars belief"
Even with the three-month delay, the executive will be 10m short of the money needed to fund free personal care for the first two years, Ms Sturgeon said.

But Mr Henry denied there was any shortfall.

He said there was no obvious mechanism for re-routing the benefits money to Scotland but all would be evened out in the next Comprehensive Spending Review.

The Scottish Executive confirmed on Tuesday that implementation had slipped back three months from the initial target date of 1 April 2002.

Frontline staff

Health Minister Malcolm Chisholm said the extension was a result of listening to frontline staff and would allow for better care and support for older people.

The new system will mean that all personal care charges for people cared for in their own homes will be abolished and that everyone needing nursing care will receive it free of charge.

For those in residential accommodation and contributing to the cost of their care, there will be a "free personal care" payment of 145 a week to their local authority or care provider.

For those in nursing homes, the payment to their local authority or care provider is 210 a week.

Mr Chisholm confirmed that after dialogue with the Department of Work and Pensions and other Whitehall departments, the executive would meet the full costs of the policy.

See also:

15 Jan 02 | Scotland
Date named for elderly care plan
14 Jan 02 | Scotland
Free elderly care plan delayed
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