‘Can’t pay’ council in OAP care bombshell
OAPs face being denied vital help with independent living after a cash-strapped council ruled that it no longer has to fund free care.
Since Free Personal Care was introduced in 2002, elderly Scots have had help with washing and feeding.
But now the policy is facing an unprecedented threat after North Ayrshire Council lawyers said the authority need only pay for free personal care if it has sufficient funds.
Last night critics warned that an apparent refusal to fund care could be disastrous for pensioners.
Campaign group Age Scotland also warned that thousands of elderly Scots – although not currently being denied free personal care – are being forced to wait. Overall, it said, around 4000 Scots currently have to fund their own care, with no idea of when they may get promised state support.
Someone receiving personal care – for things like help in getting dressed and washed – should get £171 a week to pay for services. Those in care homes who also require nursing care can apply for £78 a week.
This is estimated to cost local authorities £500 million a year.
The threat to free care emerged in correspondence between Age Scotland and North Ayrshire Council. In one email, a council official explains: ‘Based on the advice of the legal services team, it has been confirmed that the free personal care element of funding can also only be provided within available financial means.’
A council spokesman added: ‘Current financial pressures have meant that recently the partnership has not been able to fund people as soon as their assessment has been completed and we have therefore had to operate a waiting list, currently at 79 people, for permanent nursing and residential care placements.
‘We immediately place someone into care when a vacancy arises.’
Age Scotland said it has been inundated with reports that support is being denied. Director Keith Robson said: ‘Our research suggests many local authorities are resorting to delaying tactics to avoid paying.’
Scottish Conservatives MSP Jamie Green said: ‘Every person over the age of 65 is entitled to free personal care. Now at least one council says this may not be the case. The SNP has to reveal if there are any more.’
The Scottish Mail on Sunday asked several councils if they were able to meet personal care commitments.
Edinburgh has 631 people waiting for support, at an estimated cost of £4 million, from a social care department already overspent by £9.35 million.
The council said that ‘services will be provided in accordance with assessed need, but this must take account of available resources’.
Glasgow said it met all free personal care requests, but admitted people sometimes had to wait.
North Lanarkshire does not have a waiting list while Fife was unable to say if it operated a waiting list.
Health Secretary Shona Robison said: ‘The NHS is investing almost half a billion pounds into social care and integration, giving more people the right care in the right setting.’
‘Many are resorting to delaying tactics’