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Age Concern warns against scrapping free personal care

It would be 'foolish' for the Scottish Parliament to consider scrapping its policy of free personal care for the elderly, the head of policy at Age Concern Scotland has argued.

Speaking on BBC Radio Four's 'The World This Weekend', Jess Barrel said reversing the contentious policy - pushed through in Scotland despite strong opposition in Whitehall - would be a political and social mistake.

In England anyone with assets over 20,000 must fund their own care, while under the new policy in Scotland any elderly person can claim 140 a week for personal care, and another 65 if they need nursing care.

The policy has been criticised because of its huge costs, but Ms Barrel said it is crucial the Scottish executive does not start having doubts about it.

"I sincerely hope they don't, because I think that it would be extremely foolish for them to do that because of the message it sends out to people, and bearing in mind that older people make up a significant proportion of the electorate. They're more likely to vote politically.

"Socially, also, I think it would be foolish, because if we're going to call into question free personal care then why don't we call into question universal healthcare. We're not doing that, and we shouldn't be doing the same about personal care."

Initial estimates suggested an annual cost of 1.5billion, but new figures show rises in the number of elderly Scots will push this up to around 2.5billion over the next 15 years.

According to the Office for National Statistics (ONS) the number of Scots over the age of 85 will treble in the next 30 years, not double as previously thought.

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