MLAs Back Free Care For Elderly

The Northern Ireland Assembly has voted in favour of providing free personal care for the elderly in the 2008-2009 budget and onwards. MLAs passed an Alliance amendment to an SDLP motion which backed the provision of free care, but did not provide a precise timetable for its introduction.

Initially, deputy speaker David McClarty said the Alliance amendment had been lost on a shouted vote. But the party demanded a recorded vote and the amendment went through. However, Stormont sources have said the tight timetable was not binding on the executive.

Health Minister Michael McGimpsey has announced a review of the costing of free personal health care. He said his target for introducing such care was 2010, which he argued was in line with how long it took to adopt the policy in Scotland.