Care Costs For Elderly Rise To £322m

THE Scottish Government has been warned it may have to put many of its promises on hold to pay off the rapidly escalating costs of free personal care for the elderly.

The warning came as figures yesterday revealed funding free personal care has increased by 52 per cent in four years between 2003 and 2007, from £212 million to £322 million.

The cost in Edinburgh and Glasgow has doubled to £45 million and £80 million respectively.

The financial burden has fallen on councils and concerns have been raised that they will struggle to meet them.

The Conservatives’ local government spokesman, David McLetchie said that the rises were precisely what he warned about when the policy was passed in Holyrood.

But he added that the policy, which was brought in by the former Labour/ Liberal Democrat Scottish Executive and supported by the SNP in opposition, now needs to be honoured before any other promises are introduced.

“This is exactly what might have been expected from a policy that was not properly costed and which just keeps on rising as more pensioners go on the pay roll and population gets older,” he said.

“But it is now in place and it should now be honoured because it was a commitment. That means that ideas the SNP have about reducing class sizes and the like can only be introduced if they have the money to pay for it after honouring free personal care for the elderly.”

The issue of paying for free personal care for the elderly has been a vexed one since the policy was introduced.

A recent report by Lord Sutherland warned that the cost will soar to £813 million by 2031 with the number of over-65s rising from 837,000 in 2006 to 1.36 million in 2031.

There has also been a row between the Scottish and UK governments over the £40 million attendance allowance for pensioners receiving care. This was withdrawn from Scotland by the UK government as a result of free personal care being introduced.

Lord Sutherland supported loud calls by the current Scottish Government and quieter lobbying by the previous Labour-led Scottish Executive for the money to be restored.

The Scottish Government has insisted that it is putting forward the money to support the increasing costs of free personal care.

A spokesman said: “The Scottish Government has already committed to providing £40 million in additional funding to local authorities from next year for care services for older people, in line with Lord Sutherland’s recommendations.

“We are working in partnership with Cosla to take forward the recommendations in Lord Sutherland’s report and our wider shared commitment to improve the delivery of care services for older people.”

He said that spending on free personal and nursing care is recorded as part of local authorities’ overall spending on care services for older people. Between 2005-6 and 2006-7 the overall expenditure on care services provided to older people in their own homes rose by £17.5 million or 6 per cent, reflecting growth in the older population.

He added: “Within this overall spend, the Statistical Publication shows that the proportion spent on free personal care has shown a significant rise of 21 per cent.

“Around half of this rise is directly attributed to one local authority, while the general trend confirms the continuing shift in the balance of care allowing more people to continue to live in their own homes.”