Free Personal Care : "The debate has only just begun"

7 August 2010

Marlyn Glen said today that while the public engagement phase of the Scottish Government’s formal consultation on Reshaping Care for Older People ends in September, "the big debate on this issue has only just begun. "

The consultation seeks to deal with issues such as how free personal care can be maintained in the decades to come as the number of elderly people in the population rises.

Scottish Labour are committed to free personal care.

Ms. Glen said, "The provision of care for the elderly will be a major issue for Dundee for over the next two decades.

"To make the best decisions we need the best local information available from both council and government."

However, she has been unable to obtain information from either Dundee City Council or the Scottish Government on the estimated expenditure on maintaining free personal care at present day standards in Dundee in the near future and of the longer term estimates of the numbers in the city who would require personal care and the numbers employed to provide that care service.

Ms. Glen said,

"Many issues are involved in future personal care such as how do we pay for it, can current services be re-organised to provide more from telecare, cut the number of emergency admissions to hospital, and encourage more voluntary work.

"Changes in lifestyle would lessen the amount of resources devoted to preventable ill-health conditions that arise from diet, smoking and physical inactivity. In the long term, this could allow resources to be transferred to care for the elderly.

"Here is one salient comparison.

"Dundee City Council spends just over £12 million a year on providing personal care at home for the elderly.

"The estimated of alcohol misuse to the NHS in Tayside is at least £12 million a year."

She continued,

"It is generally agreed that carers need more support.

"These are typically family members, friends and neighbours and they are the sometimes-forgotten champions of free personal care whose work is estimated to be worth more than what is spent on formal care.

"The cost of providing free personal care for the elderly in Scotland is £4.5 billion a year, and the Scottish Government say that if present standards of care are to remain, then another £1.1 billion will need to found by 2016.

"Both of these figures are less than the estimated £7.7 billion a year savings made to the NHS thanks to the work of carers in Scotland.

"Generally speaking, all the major political parties in Scotland remain committed to free personal care.

"If it is to be ring-fenced, then undoubtedly very difficult choices will need to be made about spending on other services in tough economic times.

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