Bill for elderly care increases by £50m
THE executive faces a demand for an extra £50 million to pay for care of the elderly in Scotland’s private nursing and residential homes, it was disclosed yesterday.
The cash request comes at a time when ministers are already struggling to find long-term funding for their controversial plans to provide free personal care for the elderly.
Funding, totalling 50 million, is needed to bridge the gap between the sum councils pay per resident and the figure that owners and managers of private nursing and residential homes claim is necessary to run the homes.
The cost estimate has been accepted by a tripartite review group comprising the executive, the Convention of Scottish Local Authorities (COSLA) and Scottish Care, the body which represents the owners of private nursing and residential care homes.
However, there is still no resolution to a dispute that has arisen between the executive and COSLA over who provides the money.
Malcolm Chisholm, the health minister, and his deputy, Hugh Henry, will meet COSLA leaders tomorrow in a further attempt to negotiate a compromise.
Meanwhile, Scottish Care has given warning that more homes will close if the money is not forthcoming.
Last night, Joe Campbell, Scottish Care’s chief executive, said a number of owners had been thrown a lifeline by their banks, on the understanding that the dispute would be resolved and the money repaid by April. He said: "If that does not happen many will go into liquidation. There is no doubt about that. It is not crying wolf; it is a fact."
He added the executive’s plans to provide free personal care for elderly people would then become an "irrelevance".
COSLA is insisting that the executive provides 100 per cent of the extra costs, while the executive wants local government to find 25 million - half of the total cost required.
According to a report by the review group, seen by The Scotsman, the members have agreed that 390 a week is needed per single occupancy bed in a home with nursing care.
This compares with the current local authority payment of 346 - a difference of 44. The shortfall for a residential home without nursing care is even greater - between 62 and 90.
A spokesman for COSLA said councils recognised that there had been underfunding in community care since its inception in 1993.
He acknowledged that this had an impact on private care homes and on the fees they received.
The spokesman said the review group had accepted the figure of 390 per person per week.
But he added: "Throughout the negotiations, it was made very clear by COSLA that such a catch-up would be a massive burden on local government and would have to be fully funded by the executive."
John Swinney, the SNP leader, yesterday visited a Church of Scotland care home in Edinburgh that is threatened with closure.
He discussed the crisis with Ian Baillie, the director of social work for the Church of Scotland board of social responsibility.
A Scottish executive spokesman said it was keen to see a resolution to the funding problem as soon as possible.
The insistence by the Labour-led COSLA that the executive should meet the costs in full is an extra problem for ministers at a time when they have already had to find 125 million in each of the next two years to pay for its new plans to provide free personal care for the elderly.
Mr Chisholm announced this week that the starting date for the free care plan had been delayed from April to July to allow more time for assessments and other work to be carried out.
He also made plain that extra money would have to be found after two years because of the refusal of the UK Department of Work and Pensions to release to the executive 23 million currently paid in attendance allowance benefit to elderly people in Scotland.
Giving evidence to a meeting of the parliament’s health committee yesterday, Mr Henry told MSPs on the committee that the executive "could not wait any longer" for the DWP to agree to its demands and had called off the talks.
During the meeting, which was considering the Community Care and Health (Scotland) Bill, Mr Henry admitted that the executive had been "over ambitious" when it planned to introduce the free personal care plans in April.
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