Page last updated at 15:24 GMT, Wednesday, 7 May 2008 16:24 UK

Care funding gap 'will be filled'

Pensioner's hands being held by a carer
Ministers said the increased funding had to improve services

A 40m funding gap in Scotland's free personal care for the elderly policy will be filled, it has been confirmed.

Health Secretary Nicola Sturgeon will also demand a 30m allowance, withdrawn from Scottish care home residents by the UK Government, be reinstated.

Her comments came after an independent review of the flagship policy.

New laws on food preparation charges will also be brought forward, after Ms Sturgeon said previous guidance was wrong and lacked clarity.

Free care was implemented in 2002 by the previous Labour/Liberal Democrat Scottish government.

The review, carried out by Lord Sutherland, was ordered amid complaints that councils were not implementing the policy correctly.

More than 50,000 older people now benefit from free personal care.

The review found the policy, which costs about 280m a year to run, was sound - but called for increased funding, greater consistency and better planning.

That decision by the UK Government - a reaction to a policy they didn't approve of - was deeply unjust and it was wrong
Nicola Sturgeon
Scottish health secretary

Scottish ministers said the extra annual 40m funding package would be given to local authorities from 2009/10.

Ms Sturgeon told the Scottish Parliament: "Everyone involved in delivering [free personal care] agrees we must ensure the additional funding delivers improved services for our most vulnerable older people."

The health secretary went on to say new legislation would prevent councils charging for food preparation, which is still undertaken by eight local authorities.

Although the previous Scottish government took steps to compensate for the loss of the attendance allowance, Ms Sturgeon said the move had added significantly to the policy's costs.

"That decision by the UK Government - a reaction to a policy they didn't approve of - was deeply unjust and it was wrong," she said.

Ms Sturgeon called for the Scottish Parliament's support to press for the reinstatement of the allowance, and said it would be a priority issue for the Holyrood/Westminster joint ministerial committee.

The Tories and Liberal Democrats welcomed the funding announcement, as did Scottish council umbrella group Cosla.

Labour called for a guarantee that addressing the funding gap would not result in a reduction in the care for people living in their own homes.


SEE ALSO
Study finds 40m care funding gap
28 Apr 08 |  Scotland
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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