McLeish on the attack over charging for care for the elderly

Former MP for Glenrothes, Henry McLeish
Former MP for Glenrothes, Henry McLeish
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The former Labour MP for Glenrothes and former leader of Fie Council has launched an attack on local authorities charging for free personal and social care for the elderly.

As widely reported, Fife Council has been under pressure to halt the ‘privatisation’ plans for its 10 council-run care homes for the elderly in the Kingdom. However, the authority is pressing ahead with plans to close its care homes and transfer elderly residents to the private sector. Recently it also transpired care home provider Southern Cross had fallen into financial difficulty, leaving many relatives of care home residents worried about future care.

Speaking as the wider issue of the cost of personal care came under continuing nationwide scrutiny, Mr McLeish stated: “Recent personal events have confirmed for me the validity of one of the most important and much-criticised policies for which I was responsible. Personal and social care, free at the point of need, is one of the big ideas of our times. It challenges us on the role of older people in our society, the priority we attach to the well-being and dignity of those who have dementia and other age-related diseases and the extent to which we as a society wish to invest in building a culture of care.

“Unfortunately the publication of the thoughtful and informed Dilnot Commission in England on the care of older people came on the same day as the convention of Scottish Local Authorities (Cosla) outlined its quarterly assault on “free” personal care. Cosla would serve the interests of older people and the tax payer if they addressed the weaknesses in their argument.

“First, the constant demand for more money doesn’t ring true. The provision of care varies enormously throughout Scotland and more could be achieved if a higher standard of provision was cost-effectively delivered.

“My father had dementia and received two 30-minute visits each day and every day from his carers. They were a lifeline for him and as a proud and fiercely independent ex-miner he was able to exist in his own home for a much longer period than would have been the case.

“Sadly, at the age of 87, he died in hospital after suffering a severe stroke. The point is an obvious one – shared by thousands of Scottish families – great care at home and great care in hospital is all about health, well-being, dignity and choice,” said Mr McLeish.