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PRAISE FOR FREE PERSONAL CARE

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Independent research on free personal care for older people has concluded that the policy has created a fairer syst...
Independent research on free personal care for older people has concluded that the policy has created a fairer system without undue extra public spending.

Older people who use care services and their families feel that the arrangements introduced in 2001 are more equitable and an improvement on the past, as do social care managers in Scottish local authorities and care home providers, according to an assessment carried out for the Joseph Rowntree Foundation.

And while free personal care - such as help with washing, dressing and grooming - has reduced means-testing and money worries for older people with modest means, it has not led to a feared reduction in informal support provided by relatives and friends.

Deputy Health Minister Lewis Macdonald said:

'I welcome this report which shows that the Free Personal and Nursing Care policy has been successful in improving the quality of life of our older people and has removed the financial concerns that many of them had. Before its introduction many people had to pay for the type of care they now receive for free.

'This report shows that free personal and nursing care is meeting our aspirations to improve the quality of life of older people, allowing them to continue living in their own homes and increase their independence by providing the help they need. This policy has raised people's awareness of the help they can expect and has made them better off financially. It not only helps older people but provides peace of mind to their families and support to their carers.

'As well as outlining the benefits of Free Personal Care the Joseph Rowntree Report has highlighted areas that we need to look at. Work is already underway in the Executive to examine in detail both the operation and impact of this policy and we will examine what this means in terms of the range of services provided to people, the quality of this care and its cost, as well as the effect this policy has had on people's lives. This work is due to be completed in October this year.'

Researchers from the University of Stirling, who organised group discussions with older people and their relatives, indicated that free personal care at home had helped informal carers by allowing them more time to carry out other, less hands-on support tasks.

Researcher Alison Bowes said:

'We found that free personal care in Scotland has promoted more 'joined up' approaches to the care of older people, while reducing their money worries and enabling their relatives and friends to continue provide additional, informal care. In that way, it has helped to improve the quality of life for frail older people and improve and support their choice of care services.'

Statement from Help the Aged follows.

Joseph Rowntree report on Free Personal Care reaction

Reacting to a report by the Joseph Rowntree Foundation on free personal care in Scotland, Jonathan Ellis, policy manager at Help the Aged, said:

'The success ofthe policy in Scotland highlighted in this report presents a very strong case for making free personal care available to all in the UK. It would put an end to the shambolic and hugely over- complex system around who pays what for different sorts of care.

'Implementation of free personal care would put an end to the false distinction between 'health' and 'social care' services and remove some of the barriers obstructing older people's access to high quality care and support.

'There will no doubt be some cause for concern at the Treasury, which could be anxious about the cost. However, today's report shows that the costs of free personal care can be effectively managed with a shift towards more home care - a factor heavily touted in this week's White Paper.'

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