Page last updated at 15:24 GMT, Tuesday, 24 November 2009

Free personal care costs in Scotland rise 11%

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

The cost of free personal and nursing care in Scotland rose by more than 11% last year to £358m.

Official figures showed the cost of providing free care for those paying their own way in care homes passed the £100m mark for the first time.

The bill for free personal care for those living at home almost doubled to £257m since its introduction in 2002.

Ministers said the policy had improved the lives of more than 50,000 vulnerable, elderly people.

The figures come in the wake of last week's Queen's Speech, which set out plans for free personal care for certain groups of people in England.

'Laying foundations'

Defending the policy, Scotland's public health minister, Shona Robison, said: "We are absolutely committed to maintaining that progress and laying the foundations for Scotland's older people to receive the support they need, not only now but in the years to come.

"We are working with councils and health boards to agree what needs to be done to shape the future of health and social care over the next 20 years."

The landmark policy was brought in to replace the previous system, where nursing care was free but councils could charge for personal care.

The latest figures showed spending by councils on providing free personal and nursing care to people paying their own way in care homes rose from £97m in 2007 to £101m last year.

Spending on free personal and nursing care to people living at home rose from £224m to £257m over the same period.

Over-65s who live at home are not charged for personal care services, while those paying their own way in care homes get £153 a week for for personal and £69 for nursing care.

The number of people paying their own way in care homes and receiving free personal care has risen by 15% since 2004 to 9,580, while the number receiving free personal care at home went up from 32,870 in 2004 to 44,660.

The Scottish government pointed out it had accepted the recommendations of the Sutherland review of the policy, which said an extra £40m should be spent annually.

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