Socialist Worker

Scotland shows universal care provision is possible

Issue No. 2105

The Scottish parliament brought in free personal care for over 65s in 2002 under a Labour administration.

The policy has proved hugely popular and has led to an increase in take up of homecare and other care services, with up to 72,000 receiving free personal care last year.

Free personal care means older people and their families know that there will be help for those assessed as in need regardless of ability to pay.

It has also shown that universal provision, rather than means testing, means greater take up, less confusion and improved access to services.

The Scottish administration found that universal free care was only slightly more expensive than the care previously on offer.

Universal provision is easier and cheaper to administer than means tested or rationed services and ensures that those who need it receive care.

Audit Scotland found that the new policy cost £1.8 billion over the first four years, but that councils would have paid £1.6 billion to provide care for those who were previously eligible for state funded care.

However, there are battles in Scotland too.

A report last year by Audit Scotland showed three quarters of councils in Scotland have instituted tighter eligibility criteria or set priority levels for receipt of free care.

It also found varying definitions of what constitutes personal care – with eight councils charging for food preparation, a service that is free in the rest of Scotland.

There are ongoing debates in Scotland about who should fund the care and how. There are also more positive debates including calls to extend free personal care to under 65 year olds with disabilities or in need of social care.


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