Thousands missing out on free care payments due to council delays

THOUSANDS of older people across Scotland are missing out on free personal care payments because of council delays in assessing and arranging their care, a charity has warned.

Research by Age Scotland found that on average, five per cent of older people - around 3,940 - have had to wait longer than the six weeks it should take for care to be arranged following a financial assessment.

FoI responses from 25 out of Scotland's 32 local authorities showed that while most carry out care assessments in an average of two-and-a-half weeks, the average worst case scenario was five months and two weeks. In one instance, an individual waited over 18 months.

After assessment, services should be in place within six weeks, according to national eligibility criteria.

However, three-quarters of councils who responded had at least one person who had waited more than six weeks.

Most authorities do not record the reasons for delays. Many citied the person concerned being admitted to hospital or waiting for a place at their chosen care home. Staff shortages, financial constraints and delays in adapting people's homes were also cited.

In addition, The charity found that only 17 per cent of Scots believe public services will be able to look after their care needs when they are older - and almost three-quarters (73 per cent) do not believe society properly values or invests enough in social care.  

Keith Robson, chief executive of Age Scotland, described the findings as "deeply concerning".

"Free personal care has been one of the landmark policy initiatives in Scotland following devolution, and that is why we are calling on all levels of government to ensure the system works as it was intended," he said.

"Our research has also found that most Scots do not believe that as a society we invest enough in health and social care, or are confident public services will provide for their care needs in later life. This shows the levels of concern which exist around current provision of care services, and why as a society we must all work to ensure our health and social care system has the support and investment it needs. We want everyone in Scotland to be confident they will receive high quality care when they need it in later life, and that is what we must work to achieve."