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FREE PERSONAL CARE TIMETABLE EXTENDED

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A revised implementation timetable for the introduction of free nursing and personal care in Scotland was outlined ...
A revised implementation timetable for the introduction of free nursing and personal care in Scotland was outlined today, designed to ensure the effective delivery of this ground-breaking new policy consistently across the country.

Full implementation will be delivered from 1 July 2002 - a three-month extension to the original plan - to allow local authorities and other providers to ensure that the right assessment and delivery mechanisms are in place to meet the anticipated need.

Health minister Malcolm Chisholm said the extension was a result of 'listening to frontline staff' and would allow the executive to build up care and support for older people 'on the strongest of foundations'.

The extension is on the recommendation of the implementation steering group, set up to advise on the practical and technical challenges of delivering the new policy on the ground.

Full implementation of the policy will, from 1 July 2002, mean:

* all personal care charges for people cared for in their own homes will be abolished

* everyone needing nursing care, whether at home or in a care home, will receive it free of charge

* for those cared for in residential accommodation and who are contributing towards the cost of their care, delivery of the Care Development Group's (CDG) recommended 'free personal care' payment of£145 per week

* and for those in a nursing home, delivery of the recommended 'free personal and nursing care' payment of£210 per week

The executive has also announced today, after dialogue with the department of work and pensions and other Whitehall departments, that it will meet the full costs of delivering free personal care from within executive resources.

The executive has set aside£125m in each of the next two financial years - sufficient to fund the policy under the new implementation timetable between 2002-4. Thereafter, and common to all other executive policies, funding for future years will be assessed as part of the next comprehensive spending review.

Mr Chisholm said:

'This week, the Community Care and Health Bill will continue its important process of scrutiny through the Scottish parliament. I am aware that over recent days and weeks, some doubts have been raised over the timetable, the affordability, and indeed the very need for this important policy.

'Today, and so that both the public and parliament have the information they need, I want to set out the executive's plans for delivery of this policy - in full and as we promised.

'Some have used the appointment of a new first minister and new cabinet to try and undermine the commitment of this executive to the policy of free personal care, and to the work of the care development group. Let me take this opportunity to crush those suggestions.

'We were committed to implementing the recommendations of the CDG - and we are committed to implementing the recommendations of the CDG. There has been no change in that position.

'Supporting more older people to be cared for intheir own homes, expanding community care services, abolishing charges for personal care at home, and delivering the level of funding recommended by the CDG to deliver free personal and nursing care in care homes will all happen. It will happen because it is a promise we made to Scotland's pensioners, and because we believe it is the right thing to do.

'What I am announcing today is not whether we will implement these important new initiatives, it is how and when those with the statutory responsibilities for older people's care will be in a position to deliver them effectively on the frontline.

'Good government is about getting the detail right first time, and making policy work to deliver real benefits. The first minister Jack McConnell has insisted that we take a hard look at implementation and funding to ensure that words translate into planned action on the ground. That is what we have done.

'First, let me deal with the timetable. This is a very significant policy with very significant resource implications for care services in local authorities. We recognised the challenging agenda we had set in developing a new system of assessment and of care delivery. That is why we set up an implementation steering Group, chaired by Alexis Jay, one of Scotland's foremost social work professionals and a member of the CDG. The implementation group, drawn from the full range of key service providers and reflecting the views of service users, has been listening to the opinions of frontline staff - and working up advice to ministers on detailed implementation plans.

'We too - as an executive - have been listening. The implementation steering group has yet to deliver its final detailed implementation proposals, but have indicated to me that they recommend a short extension to the current implementation timetable.

'This extension would allow local authorities an extra three-month period to ensure that the necessary preparations have been made for all those covered by the new policy - whether in a care home or in their own home.

'Our top priority is to ensure that when this policy is implemented, it is done so in a way that is effective and sustainable. I have asked for - and received - assurances from the implementation steering group that this new revised timetable can be and will be delivered. I can therefore announce today that it is the executive's intention to accept this recommendation and delay full implementation of the policy from 1 April until 1 July 2002.

'Second, affordability. The care development group recommended that free personal care should be delivered via two funding routes - the continuation of a department of work and pensions benefit known as attendance allowance, or an equivalent resource transfer, and new funding delivered by the Scottish executive. The Executive committed new funding of£125 million to cover the overall delivery of the policy in each of the next two financial years (2002-4). We also opened high level discussions with DWP and, subsequently, other key Whitehall interests including the treasury. This dialogue was continued by the new first minister when he met face-to-face with the secretary of state for work and pensions last month.

'I can announce today that we have concluded those discussions. It is now clear that DWP do not accept the recommendation of the CDG on the issue of Attendance Allowance and there is little prospect of that position changing in time to meet the key implementation dates ahead of us. I understand that there will be disappointment among many in Scotland at this decision. However, we see no practical benefit from taking the issue further. As I have already stated, details of implementation are now being finalised, frontline staff and the public need to know where they stand. It is right that we concentrate now on the practicalities of delivering the policy.

'The executive will fund the introduction of free personal care from within the overall£250m allocated for 2002-4. The new timetable dictates that there are sufficient resources to deliver on our commitment to free personal and nursing care - and still commit significant new investment in community care services. In future years, the policy will clearly now require significant additional resources to those set out in the CDG report. These are issues that, like every other executive policy, will be addressed as part of the next comprehensive spending review.

'Finally, let me touch on the reasons why we believe in this policy and where it sits in our broader priorities of improving care for older people. We will abolish charges for personal care for everyone cared for in their own homes. That benefits every older person in this position - not just the 'rich' as has been suggested. Nursing care - in any setting - will also be free to all. And many ordinary pensioners who have contributed financially to their own care will now face the future with greater financial certainty and security than at any time in their lives.

'Alongside our£20m action plan to tackle the delays older people face in being discharged from hospital into more appropriate care, and ongoing negotiations to bring real long-term stability to the independent care home sector, this approach represents the biggest ever government investment in older people's care in Scotland.

'An approach implemented in full, in co-operation with frontline staff, and in clear response to the needs and wishes of the Scottish people. An approach that will deliver this policy on the strongest of foundations.'

The implementation steering group is chaired by Alexis Jay, director of social work for West Dunbartonshire Council. A wide range of service providers and user interests are represented on the group.

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