I am absolutely delighted to confirm that the extension of free personal care to those under 65 who are assessed as requiring it will begin on Monday, for which £30 million of new investment is being delivered in our budget for 2019-20. We have been working with the Convention of Scottish Local Authorities, local authorities and stakeholders to ensure that the policy will be successfully implemented.
I welcome the step change in the provision of free personal care and the benefit that its expansion will provide to people, not just in the south of Scotland but throughout the country, who require care.
When free personal care was first introduced in the United Kingdom, the UK Government clawed back moneys that were spent on attendance allowance. With the extension of free personal care, has the UK Government given any commitment not to cut the disability benefits of people who receive free personal care?
No. Unfortunately, the UK Government has made no such commitment. When we were bringing forward the steps that were necessary to put the extension in place, we called on the UK Government not to cut those disability benefits but, unfortunately, it rejected those calls.
Our actions in extending free personal care will ensure that no one is left out of pocket by the UK Government withdrawing the care elements of disability living allowance or the personal independence payment, but the Tories need to explain why, given that they rightly backed the calls to extend free personal care, they voted against it in our budget in this Parliament and are going to cut DLA or PIP payments at Westminster, too. That is something else that seems utterly inexplicable to me.
Two years ago, I was honoured to introduce my Frank’s law bill in Parliament alongside Amanda Kopel, so the progress that is being made is welcome.
One key area that Alzheimer’s Scotland has highlighted in its recent report, which the Government has not responded to, is the issue of equality of access to healthcare for people with advanced dementia. Now that councils will be asked to deliver personal care to those people, what steps will ministers take to guarantee that a postcode lottery does not develop across Scotland?
We will continue to work with councils and to liaise with organisations such as
Alzheimer’s Scotland to make sure that people who are assessed as needing personal care get it, and I hope that all members will play their part in that.
I commend all those who have campaigned for the policy. In particular, I commend
Amanda Kopel, who is due a great amount of credit and gratitude from all of us for all her efforts.
We will undoubtedly continue to debate issues such as those that have been raised by Miles Briggs and Emma Harper, but I want to sound a note of consensus. Let us pause to reflect on the fact that the introduction of free personal care for the over-65s was one of the proudest achievements of this Parliament in its early years. As we celebrate the 20th anniversary of the Parliament, it is really appropriate, and something that all of us should be proud of, that we are extending the policy to under-65s as well. As a Parliament elsewhere on these islands obsesses with Brexit, all of us should be proud that our Parliament is getting on with the socially progressive change that our country wants to see.