Cost of care for the elderly living at home up 160%

Spending on free personal care for elderly people living at home in Scotland has increased by more than 160 per cent in the past decade, figures show.

Free personal care is a flagship policy of the SNP government. Picture: Getty
Free personal care is a flagship policy of the SNP government. Picture: Getty

The cost of providing personal care, which covers services such as help with washing and dressing, increased from £133 million in 2003-4 to £349m in 2012-13, according to the latest statistics.

The number of pensioners receiving personal care in their own home has increased every year except one since 2003-4.

In 2012-13, 47,680 benefited from the flagship policy, introduced in 2002, receiving an average of 8.4 hours of care a week, compared to 32,870 people receiving 6.9 hours of care a week in 2003-4.

Over the period the total hours of care provided to people in their own homes has risen from 226,000 to 398,400 – an increase of 76 per cent.

Scottish Labour and the Conservatives welcomed the rise in older people being cared for at home, but warned Scotland faced costs and pressures due to a “demographic timebomb”.

The cost of the policy in care homes has also risen, from £67.7m in 2003-4 to £90.4m in 2012-13.

Health secretary Alex Neil said the government remained “fully committed” to free personal care.

The “large increase” in people receiving free personal care in their own homes “reflects an increasing older population and a move away from long-term care in hospital and care homes”, the report explained.

While there were “large increases” in the cost of providing care to people in their own home in the early years of the policy, these have “gradually diminished”, it added.

Mr Neil said that when the 30,120 people in care homes were included, free personal and nursing care improved the lives of 78,000 older, vulnerable people in Scotland.

Scottish Labour wellbeing spokeswoman Rhoda Grant said: “More of our elderly loved ones being cared for in their own homes is welcome but as the demands of an ageing population continue to rise, the costs will inevitably become more substantial.

“We already hear stories of care workers under extreme pressure and forced to carry out visits of 15 minutes or less so the demographic timebomb of additional 1.5 million older people in Scotland in 20 years’ time must be addressed now.

“This is one of the reasons we have called for Mr Neil to have a full-scale review of the health service to ensure that as it goes forward it is equipped to deal with the changing pressures the NHS will face.”

Scottish Conservative health spokesman Jackson Carlaw said: “Free personal care is something we support in principle, so long as it’s affordable.

“The problem is, the Scottish Government has absolutely no idea how it will continue to fund it.”