Page last updated at 00:21 GMT, Sunday, 8 February 2009

Plans to close free care loophole

Pensioner's hands being held by a carer
Free personal care for the elderly was implemented in 2002

Councils could be stopped from charging OAPs for food preparation under plans to tighten Scotland's rules on free personal care, it has been announced.

Public Health Minister Shona Robison said she wanted to close the loophole to put the issue "beyond doubt".

A report last year found that eight local authorities, including Glasgow, Dundee and Renfrewshire, passed on the costs of help with food preparation.

The new plans will be introduced to the Scottish Parliament on Monday.

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

Greater consistency

A review by Lord Sutherland, which was published last April, had been ordered amid complaints that councils were not implementing the policy correctly.

The review found the policy was sound - but called for increased funding, greater consistency and better planning.

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

Ms Robison said: "The universal nature of the free personal and nursing care policy was always intended to ensure that care is provided on a fair and equitable basis.

This unfortunate lack of clarity was disadvantaging people in some areas
Shona Robison
Public Health Minister

"However, a lack of clarity with the legislation on charging for food preparation led to variations in local practices.

"In the independent review we commissioned from Lord Sutherland, he confirmed that this unfortunate lack of clarity was disadvantaging people in some areas."

Lord Sutherland's report found that eight councils charged for food preparation, arguing that it was not covered by the existing legislation.

Most of the eight councils identified last year still charge for meal preparation.

About 9,600 residents in care homes receive personal care payments, with about 6,200 in receipt of nursing care payments.

About 42,400 people receive free personal care at home.

Ms Robison said 40m would be given to councils in additional funds this year.

If supported by parliament, the new draft order will come into effect on April 3,

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