SNP ‘committed’ to free personal care as costs rises by 160%

Spending on free personal care for elderly people living at home in Scotland has increased by more than 160% since the flagship policy was introduced, with the bill reaching almost £350 million in 2012-13.

The number of pensioners receiving personal care – which includes help with washing and dressing – in their own home has increased every year except one since 2003-04, according to new figures from the Scottish Government.

In 2012-13, 47,680 people benefited from the policy, receiving an average of 8.4 hours of care a week, compared to 32,870 people receiving an average of 6.9 hours of care a week in 2003-04.

Over the period the overall number of hours of care provided to people in their own homes has risen from 226,000 to 398,400 – an increase of 76%.

The latest Government report on the policy said: “Total expenditure on personal care services at home has increased each year from £132.8 million in 2003-04 (first full year of policy) to £349.2 million in 2012-13, an increase of 163%.”

The cost of the policy for those in care homes has also risen over the same period, from £67.7 million in 2003-04 to £90.4 million in 2012-13.

Health Secretary Alex Neil said the Scottish Government remained “fully committed” to free personal care, stating that increasing numbers of people aged 65 and over were benefiting from the policy.

The “large increase” in people receiving free personal care in their own homes ” reflects an increasing older population and a move away from long-term care in hospital and care homes”, the report explained.

“People receiving personal care services at home received on average 6.9 hours of care each week in 2003-04.

“This has risen steadily to 8.4 hours of care per week in 2012-13, showing that people receiving care at home have increasing levels of need.”

While there were “l arge increases” in the cost of providing care to people in their own home in the early years of the policy, these have “gradually diminished” with smaller rises in more recent years.

“The overall increase in expenditure over the last eight years reflects the fact that an increasing proportion of older people are cared for at home, rather than in hospital or care homes, that increasingly home care workers are providing personal care services rather than domestic services, and that people living at home have increasing levels of need,” the report said.

Mr Neil said that when the 30,120 people in care homes were included, “free personal and nursing care improves the lives of 78,000 older, vulnerable people in Scotland”.

He stressed: “We remain fully committed to providing free personal care for older people and these figures show that an increasing number of older people are benefiting from this policy.

“We want older people to be able to stay at home or in a homely setting within their own communities for as long as possible, and free personal and nursing care is ensuring that we can offer older people the support they need to make this a reality.

“These statistics also show that there has been a rise in the number of people with intensive care needs who are now being supported to remain at home for longer.

“The success of this policy continues to demonstrate that decisions made in Scotland benefit the people of Scotland.”

Scottish Labour’s wellbeing spokeswoman Rhoda Grant warned that as the demands of an ageing population rose, so would the cost of providing care and the pressures on staff, and called for a review.

“We already hear stories of care workers under extreme pressure and forced to carry out visits of 15 minutes or less so the demographic timebomb of an additional 1.5m older people in Scotland in 20 years’ time must be addressed now,” she said.

“This is one of the reasons we have called for Alex Neil to have a full-scale review of the health service to ensure that as it goes forward it is equipped to deal with the changing pressures the NHS will face.”

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