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Caithness.org News Bulletins -  November 2002

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The Highland Council today (Wednesday) gave a total commitment to delivering the Scottish Executive's policy of Free Personal and Nursing Care for older people.

This was the message that from members of the Council's Housing and Social Work Committee, when they dismissed any suggestion that budget pressures experienced during the first four months of the scheme would result in the introduction of a waiting list for free care for lower priority requests.

The committee agreed to seek discussions with the Scottish Executive to clarify funding requirements and the Convention of Scottish Local Authorities to agree a national eligibility criteria for free care to ensure those in most need get priority for care.

Committee Chairman Councillor Garry Coutts said demand in the Highlands for free personal and nursing care was outstripping the monies the Council had estimated would be required.

The Council had been allocated 4,106,000 to meet anticipated costs, calculated on the basis of 2,092,000 for people in care homes and 2,014,000 for implementation and infrastructure costs, for loss of income to council provided services, care to people in their own homes and towards the development of community based services.

Four months into the scheme, the Council anticipated a 300,000 overspend and he believed it was prudent to bring this to the attention of the committee.

He said: "The council is 100% committed to implementing the policy and people of the Highlands should be assured of this commitment. It is understandable that any new initiatives will require a little refinement and we will be getting in touch with the Executive and COSLA very soon to iron out funding and the desirability of formulating an eligibility criteria which is adopted by all councils in Scotland."

He stressed that the eligibility criteria would provide clear guidance on assessing the need of applicants for free care. Ability to pay for care packages was not a consideration in the eligibility criteria. The Director of Social Work would be bringing back to committee a report advising members of progress.