Speech in the Scottish Parliament

Free Personal Care

24 June 2010

I am pleased to take part in this debate on free personal care for the elderly.

The policy, which was begun under the previous Labour-led Scottish Executive, is highly valued by elderly people and their carers, and Labour wishes to see it continue.

Indeed, we stand by our belief that we should never forget the most vulnerable in our society, and free personal care was at the vanguard of turning our values into law.

As we consider the policy's future, it is important that we strongly recommit to it.

The Scottish Government says that it is

"urging Scots to consider future care for older people alongside climate change and the economy as one of the country's top priorities"

and that

"If current models of care are sustained, the present care budget of £4.5 billion will need to rise by £1.1 billion by 2016 and £3.5 billion by 2031."

As the minister has also talked about working

"in partnership with Scotland's local authorities"

I asked Dundee City Council, which is run by an SNP minority administration, whether it had made any estimates of the cost of maintaining the current level of provision of free personal and nursing care over, say, the next five or six years based on population projections. It replied:

"Not as yet. They are currently being developed as part of an estimate of demographic pressures."

It appears that so far the "partnership ... with local authorities" does not extend to the Scottish Government's ability to ensure that it has information such as that for its reshaping care for older people consultation.

Shona Robison: Will the member—

Marlyn Glen: Perhaps the minister will let me continue.

Of course, Dundee, with its ageing population, faces the same demographic pressures as all other Scottish councils. Dundee's population is projected to be 142,000 in 2013, with almost 27,000 aged 65 or over.

Although the population is forecast to decrease to 137,000 by 2028, the number aged over 65 is predicted to rise to almost 32,000, an increase of about 5,000.

Unfortunately, there is no corresponding increase in healthy life expectancy, or the number of years that a person might expect to enjoy good health. In fact, for men and women in Dundee, the disparity is above the Scottish average.

Although, as we have heard, the majority of older people will never have contact with the care system, we must get it right for those who do, and the Scottish Government must engage constructively with the UK Government

through the review of social care in England to secure the long-term sustainability of free personal care in Scotland.

Despite the fact that free personal care is a highly important issue in its own right—according to the Scottish Government, it is on a par with climate change—the online material for the reshaping care for older people consultation compares unfavourably with that for other consultations on the Government's website. At the moment, there is only one 12-page leaflet.

In comparison, the Scottish Government's consultation documents on proposed public records legislation run to 26 pages—

Shona Robison: Will the member give way?

Marlyn Glen: I ask the minister to let me finish my point.

The Scottish ferries review runs to 76 pages and the consultation on the proposed tobacco display and sale regulations runs to 64 pages. As I say, despite its obvious—and agreed—importance, the reshaping care for older people consultation can muster only 12 pages; clearly there is room for much greater detail.

The programme's thrust is to shift the emphasis from acute provision to a preventive re-enabling model.

Shona Robison: Will the member give way?

Marlyn Glen: No, thanks.

Although that seems like the right direction, the consultation must be fair and thorough.

It is interesting to view the contents of the short booklet available on the website in the light of comments from the Royal College of Nursing Scotland, which has referred to the

"lack of publicly available evidence",

the fact that

"little coherent information is ... available both at national and board level"

and the need for

"access to accurate, up-to-date and transparent evidence on the current situation".

If we are to redesign services in the best way possible and continue this flagship policy of free personal care, there must be clear and full information to allow proper engagement.

 

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