Lobby Over Free Disabled Care

Disabled groups want Labour to re-think their policy on free care. Labour pledged at the last assembly election to provide the care, but dropped the policy in February. A coalition of disabled groups is to lobby Health Minister Brian Gibbons. In a statement, Mr Gibbons said he “recognised people’s disappointment” and had since announced a £76m package of alternatives. The Coalition against Charging Cymru – which includes groups such as Help the Aged, Disability Wales and Carers Wales – said it wants the Welsh Assembly Government to re-examine the issue as a matter of urgency.

Coalition Chairperson Rhian Davies, from Disability Wales, said research was needed into the potential costs, benefits and legal powers needed to introduce free home care in Wales. She said: “In 2003 the Labour party made a manifesto pledge to abolish charges for home care services. On the strength of one flawed report the minister decided he was unable to implement this much-needed and promised pledge. As a coalition we, and the people we represent, call on the minister to find the political will and drive to end the injustice of charging in Wales.”

In February, the Welsh Assembly Government blamed legal issues over definitions of “free” and “disabled”, for its decision to abandon its free disabled care pledge.
It pointed to evidence from Scotland where demand for free care rose after it was introduced.

Labour said it would target funding towards disabled people on the lowest incomes who paid for personal care. Dr Gibbons said: “I understand the coalition’s wish to reduce the inconsistencies that can occur and we are looking at this. I fully realise that people have been disappointed by the announcement on free home care for the disabled. However, I did announce an alternative £76m package which will reduce for disabled and older people the burden of paying for home care while at the same time offering them and their carers additional services and support. This will help disabled and older people to remain in their own homes for as long as possible.”