Personal care in Scotland is free only where such care falls within a precise legal definition, which some local authorities find difficult to understand and charge unnecessarily as a result, according to Alison Bowes at the University of Sterling.
A report Bowes co-wrote for the Joseph Rowntree Foundation – Financial care models in Scotland and the UK – found many people believe all personal care in Scotland is free, whereas in fact means-testing is still carried out for payments towards 'hotel' costs, such as food and accommodation associated with normal living.
Bowes says the difficulty lies in determining where personal care ends and social care begins.
Under the Health and Community Care Act 2002, nursing care is defined as interventions requiring a registered nurse, while personal care means:
“…care which relates to the day to day physical tasks and needs of the person cared for (as for example, but without prejudice to that generality, to eating and washing) and to mental processes related to those tasks and needs (as for example, but without prejudice to that generality, to remembering to eat and wash).”
Local authorities in Scotland are prohibited from charging for any service which falls under the definition, but there is ongoing confusion about which services the definition covers and, as a result, some people are still being charged for services they are entitled to receive for free.
The Scottish Executive has tried to resolve the problem by issuing guidance, but Bowes says while the Executive believes the definition of personal care is “simple”, others find it harder to understand.
Further, Brian Fisher, marketing manager at Axa PPP lifetime care, points out some local authorities do not have adequate funding to meet the requirements so some have made their criteria for free personal care more stringent.
He adds: “People think it is free, but only a certain amount is. It doesn’t help if people have these aspirations. Local authorities do not have enough money for completely free care but if they tighten their rules it leads to confusion over who is eligible.”
Fisher believes it will always be difficult to clearly define what people are entitled to because people’s attitudes are different and only some are prepared to support their relatives.
If you have any comments you would like to add to this story or would like to speak to its author about a similar subject, telephone Emily Perryman on 020 7968 4554 or email [email protected].IFAonline
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