[an error occurred while processing this directive]
BBC News
watch One-Minute World News
Last Updated: Thursday, 8 June 2006, 13:57 GMT 14:57 UK
Leaders clash over elderly care
Man in wheelchair
Opposition parties said demand for elderly care outstripped supply
First Minister Jack McConnell has pledged to "take action" against councils failing to properly deliver free personal care for elderly people.

He was responding to opposition claims that there was a "postcode lottery" in elderly care services.

The Scottish National Party used First Minister's Question Time to accuse Mr McConnell of "betrayal".

SNP Holyrood leader Nicola Sturgeon condemned reports of councils operating waiting lists for free care services.

Ms Sturgeon cited a letter from Mr McConnell in which he appeared to condone waiting for some care services.

Scottish Tory leader Annabel Goldie urged the first minister to sort out problems with the policy.

Again this week we've heard some local authorities in Scotland are rationing free personal care because of a lack of resources
Nicola Sturgeon
SNP Holyrood leader

Mr McConnell said free care was "fully funded" but accused some councils of under spending.

He said those who were not delivering must step up to the mark or face Scottish Executive action.

Ms Sturgeon said: "Again this week we've heard some local authorities in Scotland are rationing free personal care because of a lack of resources.

"What action will the first minister take to ensure that old people get the care that they are legally entitled to?"

'Meet obligations'

Mr McConnell said Scotland's councils had a duty to deliver free personal care to elderly people and that it was "one of the best policies passed by this parliament".

He warned councils failing to provide adequate elderly care, adding: "Those authorities need to meet their obligations and if they do not do so there are clear procedures that will be followed."

Ms Goldie referred to an admission by Argyll and Bute Council earlier this week that up to 200 eligible pensioners were not receiving free care, because demand outstripped supply.

There is no crisis in free personal care and we are already involved in sensible discussions with the executive
Pat Watters
Cosla president

The Scottish Tory leader said that, four years after the policy was introduced, the executive was "in breach of that commitment".

She said that the executive had a "legal responsibility" to provide free personal care when the elderly needed it, not after "languishing" on a waiting list.

Mr McConnell said the Tory leader was implying that services should be taken away from local authorities and delivered centrally.

"The Tories should have been honest about that at the time the legislation was debated and moved an amendment in the chamber to that effect," he said.

The Convention of Scottish Local Authorities (Cosla) said the policy had been a "tremendous success" and should be applauded.

President Pat Watters said talks were ongoing over the issues of waiting times following assessment, what is provided free in terms of food preparation and future burdens from an ageing population.

He said: "There is no crisis in free personal care and we are already involved in sensible discussions with the executive to ensure that this popular policy is sustainable over the coming years."




BBC NEWS: VIDEO AND AUDIO
See some of the heated debate at Holyrood



SEE ALSO
Free elderly care bill tops 200m
29 Mar 06 |  Scotland
Elderly care wait lists revealed
28 Mar 06 |  Scotland
Elderly people's champion urged
16 Mar 06 |  Scotland
Elderly 'charged for free food'
27 Feb 06 |  Scotland

RELATED BBC LINKS

RELATED INTERNET LINKS
The BBC is not responsible for the content of external internet sites



FEATURES, VIEWS, ANALYSIS
Has China's housing bubble burst?
How the world's oldest clove tree defied an empire
Why Royal Ballet principal Sergei Polunin quit

PRODUCTS & SERVICES

Americas Africa Europe Middle East South Asia Asia Pacific