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Last Updated: Thursday, 14 June 2007, 17:37 GMT 18:37 UK
Review outlined for care policy
Elderly man in a bed
The SNP is committed to free personal care for the elderly
A review will be held into Scotland's free personal care for the elderly policy, the government has announced.

Payments for personal and nursing care in care homes will also rise with inflation from April next year.

Health Secretary Nicola Sturgeon pledged to raise the bar to deliver the policy across Scotland.

Labour and the Lib Dems questioned the need for an inquiry. The Tories raised concerns about on-going problems, five years after the legislation was passed.

About 50,000 elderly people benefit from the allowance, most of them receiving help with washing, dressing and eating in their own homes.

The government could also be heading for a clash with Westminster after it was also announced discussions would take place to agree a settlement over the issue of millions of pounds in attendance allowances, lost when free care was agreed.

I hope that we will not get into a long and protracted inquiry
Ross Finnie MSP
Scottish Lib Dem Health spokesman

The previous Scottish Executive lost its battle on that front with the Department of Work and Pensions after it refused to transfer 22m in attendance allowances north of the border.

Ms Sturgeon told the Scottish Parliament: "As long-term advocates of the policy of free personal care, we are absolutely committed to its success now and in the future.

"It is a policy that gives help and peace of mind to thousands of people and at a time of their lives when they need it most."

The review, which will investigate the level and distribution of resources given to local authorities to implement the policy, will be overseen by Lord Sutherland, who chaired the Royal Commission which paved the way for free personal care.

Despite several issues with free care, Scotland's local authority group Cosla maintained that it had been a success and said it stood ready to back the new government in making it work.

'Hidden waiting list'

Concerns have been raised over councils operating waiting lists for a service to which people were legally entitled.

And a number of local authorities have paid back costs after claiming they were misinformed by ministers over charging for meal preparation.

Scottish Labour public health spokesman Lewis Macdonald pointed out that both the Rowntree Foundation and Holyrood's health committee had carried out inquiries into free care.

"Clearly we would look to ministers to do more than simply set up another inquiry but also to act to resolve some of those difficult issues," he said.

Mr Macdonald, deputy health minister in the last Scottish government, told MSPs that local authorities had spent 197m on free personal care and nursing care in 2003-04 but had been allocated upwards of 219m.

Scots Tory health spokeswoman Mary Scanlon added: "Over half of all local authorities operate a waiting list for free personal care.

"But the other issue is the hidden waiting list, the long wait for assessment."

Today's statement is a clear vindication of Cosla's position over the last two years
Pat Watters
Cosla

Scottish Liberal Democrat health spokesman Ross Finnie said he had not heard a "compelling reason" for a further inquiry.

"I hope that we will not get into a long and protracted inquiry and I hope that the practical steps of making this more workable will emerge sooner rather than later."

Local authority body Cosla said the executive had recognised that outstanding legislative issues needed to be dealt with before local councils could implement the policy.

Cosla president Pat Watters said: "Councils and the public needed clarity on how the policy should be implemented, particularly in terms of whether or not councils should charge for food preparation and whether or not it is within the terms of the policy to have a waiting list for free personal care.

"Today's statement is a clear vindication of Cosla's position over the last two years."


SEE ALSO
Elderly care to be made 'clearer'
06 Mar 07 |  Scotland
Leaders clash over elderly care
08 Jun 06 |  Scotland
Council ordered to pay care costs
29 Nov 06 |  Glasgow and West
Elderly care 'cave-in' criticised
16 Jan 02 |  Scotland

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