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Wednesday, 1 May, 2002, 09:01 GMT 10:01 UK
Appoint OAP commissioner, assembly urged
nursing home
Funding free care for the elderly will be expensive
Free personal care to the tune of 67m a year, and the appointment a commissioner to look after the interests of older people are two of the major recommendations in a eport to the Welsh Assembly.

The study entitled When I'm 64 - commissioned by the assembly and compiled by a strategy group - recommends a policy similar to the one being adopted in Scotland which is introducing free personal care to pensioners.

Even if such resources could be identified would be difficult to accord free personal care a higher priority than other recommendations

Advisory Group report

An advisory group chaired by Labour AM Dr Brian Gibbons said the assembly would find it hard to fund such a scheme unless the UK Government gave its backing.

The report published on Wednesday makes more than 100 recommendations to improve services for older people, including the appointment of a commissioner and a minister to look after their interests.

But the wide-ranging proposals in the report highlight a key dilemma of devolution.

The assembly may choose to adopt different policies in Wales in a number of areas but then has to make the difficult decision on how to fund them.

Tough choices

In December 2001, free nursing care was introduced for elderly people in Wales.

But Professor David Bell from Stirling University has said that extending that to include free personal care would cost between 67m and 87m now, rising to between 130m and 181m by 2020.

Man in wheelchair
Elderly people may not be ill but still need care

The Scottish Executive will introduce free personal care for the elderly in July at a cost of 125m a year, with the Northern Ireland Assembly expected to consider the idea in the autumn.

Given the likely cost, the report urges the assembly to put pressure on the UK Government to fund free personal care for the elderly in all parts of the country from central taxation.

It points out that a Royal Commission recommended such a step in 1999, saying it would add 0.3% to the estimated 2.2% of tax revenues then being spent on long term care for older people across the UK.

The group said it would be hugely expensive for the assembly to fund free personal care from its own resources.

"Even if such resources could be identified, in view of the relatively small number who would benefit, it would be difficult to accord free personal care a higher priority than other recommendations it had made to improve services for older people more generally," the report said.

It adds that it may be better to target help through the NHS by improving care home standards.

BBC Wales's Gail Foley
"By 2020, there'll be almost as many of us in our sixties and over as there will be in our twenties and thirties"
See also:

20 Feb 02 | Health
Free care for elderly tops poll
30 Sep 01 | Health
Long term care: The story so far
26 Jan 01 | UK Politics
Call for free elderly care
17 Apr 00 | Wales
Home care 'lottery' for elderly
16 Jul 99 | Health
The politics of long-term care
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