£700,000 More Found to Pay for Council’s Elderly Care

Social work inspectors are to be sent in to help a council that refused to extend the offer of free care of the elderly to new applicants, claiming it does not have enough money. Argyll and Bute Council, which last month said it had run out of cash to fund the Scottish Executive’s flagship policy, had come under pressure from the executive to agree to the intervention.After meeting Lewis Macdonald, deputy minister for community care and health, Argyll’s political leadership and chief executive told him they had found £700,000 to ease pressure on the care budget.

They agreed the Social Work Inspection Agency (SWIA) should become involved, on condition it is not presented as the minister imposing them on the council.  The conditions under which inspectors become involved are to be discussed over the summer months.

An executive spokesman said: “This is not about sending in the SWIA contrary to the council’s wishes. We’ll be working together.” Doubts have been raised about the new funds by Jackie Baillie, the Labour MSP whose Dumbarton constituency includes Helensburgh and Lomond in Argyll. She has secured an agreement from Mr Macdonald to ensure the £700,000 is new money. However, she said it falls short of the £2m gap between social work spending and the guidelines provided by the executive. “The council appears to be unconcerned about the number of elderly people in my constituency and across Argyll and Bute who are not receiving the care they deserve,” she said.

Margaret Smith, policy and service development officer with Carers Scotland, said: “Our main concern is that personal care tends to have a patchwork quality. The uncertainty causes a lot of distress, and it varies so much from local authority to local authority.

“Even the interpretation of what constitutes free personal care can differ. Does it include meals, for example? What about people with dementia who can’t cook or shop?
“It is difficult to tell what difference the inspectors will make, but hopefully they will be able to bring an unbiased view to bear on the matter. It is a difficult situation when the council is saying it has no money.

“If there is going to be free personal care, it is going to have to be properly funded otherwise this sort of situation will keep coming up.”

A study from the charities CSV (Community Service Volunteers), Help the Aged and the British Red Cross, published yesterday, shows 83% of elderly people felt volunteers improved their life. Some preferred the help of volunteers to that given by formal carers.

The charities said that volunteers helped tackle isolation and improved an older person’s sense of dignity by showing interest. The study involved 160 older people and 160 volunteers and six volunteer projects commissioned by the NHS and local authorities. Of the volunteers, 90% said they got personal satisfaction from volunteering, 70% said it helped keep them active and 65% said they were motivated by a desire to help others. A third volunteered as a way of meeting new people.

Meanwhile, Ian Davidson, Labour MP for Glasgow South West, is proposing a novel way to drain Europe’s massive wine lake – give every UK pensioner a free case of 12 bottles. There are 74 million pensioners in the EU and he says every one could be given a free bottle of wine a week for a year without emptying the lake.