Free Personal Care (Meal Preparation)

Question Time — Scottish Executive — General Questions – in the Scottish Parliament at 11:40 am on 27th April 2006.

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Photo of David McLetchie David McLetchie Conservative 11:40 am, 27th April 2006

To ask the Scottish Executive what discussions the Minister for Finance and Public Service Reform has had with the Convention of Scottish Local Authorities and the Minister for Health and Community Care about the financial implications of providing assistance with meal preparation for those entitled to free personal care. (S2O-9599)

Photo of Tom McCabe Tom McCabe Labour

That matter falls to the Minister for Health and Community Care to discuss with the delivery agent, which in this case is local government.

Photo of David McLetchie David McLetchie Conservative

The minister will be aware that a large financial bill is attached to the outcome of those discussions. Is he aware that in many instances—involving councils all over Scotland—people have been charged for assistance with meal preparation when it should have been provided free of charge following the introduction of free personal care in July 2002? Does he agree that when people have been wrongly charged—I have already established that one of my constituents has been—councils should fully refund them? In respect of the discussions with COSLA, has the Scotland-wide cost of making such refunds been estimated?

Photo of Tom McCabe Tom McCabe Labour

I will deal with the second question first. I do not have any information about the discussions with COSLA. They are being conducted by the Deputy Minister for Health and Community Care.

I will make a general response to the first question. I support any move to refund charges that have been levied if it is established that they have been inappropriately charged. The member may wish to know that we have made available for free personal care £153 million in 2005-06, £162 million in 2006-07 and £169 million in 2007-08. Those are considerable sums of money. Currently, 41,000 individuals benefit from free personal care at home and a further 9,000 benefit in care homes. As a general response, if it is established that anyone has been inappropriately charged, redress should be sought and given.

Photo of Shona Robison Shona Robison Scottish National Party

The minister will be aware that schedule 1 to the Community Care and Health (Scotland) Act 2002 is explicit: the preparation of food should not be charged for. What discussions has he had with local authorities, half of which have been charging for meal preparation? Should the Executive make it clear to all local authorities that no one should be charged for meal preparation, what financial discussions will the minister have with local authorities?

Photo of Tom McCabe Tom McCabe Labour

It would obviously be wrong of me to predetermine the outcome of discussions that are being held with COSLA not by me, but by my colleague the Deputy Minister for Health and Community Care.