Page last updated at 10:21 GMT, Monday, 28 April 2008 11:21 UK

Study finds 40m care funding gap

Pensioner's hands
About 50,000 elderly people benefit from the scheme

A 40m funding gap must be addressed if free personal care for the elderly in Scotland is to be sustained in the future, a review has found.

The study of the flagship policy by Lord Sutherland also called for the reinstatement of 30m a year in attendance allowance by Westminster.

The money was withdrawn for those in care homes when the free care policy was introduced in Scotland.

The review was commissioned by Health Secretary Nicola Sturgeon last summer.

Lord Sutherland's report found that the policy of free personal health care was sound, but called for increased funding, greater consistency and transparency, as well as better planning.

Free care was implemented in 2002 by the previous Labour/Lib Dem Scottish Executive and formed a key part of the current SNP administration's election manifesto.

A review was ordered amid complaints that local authorities were not implementing it correctly.

Speaking ahead of the review being published, former Labour First Minister Henry McLeish, whose administration introduced the policy, said he hoped Lord Sutherland's report would bring some clarification on aspects of the policy.

He told BBC Radio's Good Morning Scotland programme: "It was early days for a major policy, we did not get everything right, but on the other hand it has proved successful."

Mr McLeish called on all politicians to back demands for the attendance allowance to be reinstated by Westminster.

'Positive case'

The allowance was paid to some pensioners by the Department of Work and Pensions but was scrapped with the onset of free personal care.

"This is a flagship policy affecting frail and vulnerable Scots," said Mr McLeish, who rejected any suggestion that costs were spiralling out of control.

"At the end of the day what we should be looking for is a better dialogue between Edinburgh and London to ensure that if finance is available in any particular form, that we make a very positive case for it being spent in Scotland for those vulnerable groups.

"In the new politics in Scotland I think every political party should be supporting this. I think every political party should be saying to Westminster that this is not an issue of petty politics or petty discussions about a small amount of finance.

"This is about a big policy in Scotland that requires Westminster, in my judgment, to take a much more mature view."

More than 50,000 older people now benefit from the policy, which costs about 280m a year to run.

Payments were increased for the first time in April 2008, and now can be up to 149 a week.

Public spending watchdog Audit Scotland recently found implementation of free care by local authorities to be patchy and expressed concerns about a funding shortfall of up to 63m.


SEE ALSO
Review outlined for care policy
14 Jun 07 |  Scotland
Minister backs costly care policy
01 Feb 08 |  Scotland
Council ordered to pay care costs
29 Nov 06 |  Glasgow, Lanarkshire and West
Cashback for elderly care users
19 Jul 07 |  South of Scotland

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