SCOTS with dementia will be among those benefitting from “significantly” more financial help towards care home costs, following campaigning efforts by a charity that have been backed by The Herald.

The Scottish Government plans to fast-track a seven and a half percent increase in free personal care and nursing contributions by April.

Alzheimer Scotland welcomed the rise, which is the highest for a number of years, and said it was a positive first step in recognising that the current level of contributions ‘bears no relationship” to the cost of care for those with advanced dementia.

The charity say Scots with end-stage dementia are facing one of the biggest health inequalities because they must foot the bill for nursing care home costs while those with other long-term illnesses are entitled to free NHS care.

Around 90,000 people are thought to be living with dementia in Scotland.

According to the charity, the change will equate to around an extra £80 a month in local authority contributions, or £1000 a year, with the nursing component rising from a standard of £81 to £87.

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The last increase amounted to around £5 extra a week in total. This year’s rise will take the current, standard monthly contribution from £180 to £193.50.

Health Secretary Jeane Freeman is expected to outline changes to self-funder payments next week.

While Alzheimer Scotland said it was just “the beginning of a process’ that recognises the inequity faced by those with advanced dementia, Jim Pearson, Director of Policy and Research for the charity, said it was a sign that the government “is listening.”

He said: “It is a step forward in that direction, it’s really positive.

“Ordinarily there is an annual uprate but this time they have made what is proportionately a significantly greater increase that it would normally be.

“The communication we have had is that it has been influenced by our Fair Dementia Care campaign and the support of the Herald.

“The vast majority of people in care homes, particularly those who are self-funding or paying a significant contribution to their care - those are the people who will benefit.

“They will either pay less or they will have bit more money in their pocket.

“At the moment free personal and nursing care payments have no relationship to the value of care, they are merely contributions.

“While it is a long way from what we are asking for in terms of what we think is equitable. it is a step in the right direction and it demonstrates that the government is listening.

“If it is evidence that the government is moving in that direction, then that is really positive.

He added: “It also demonstrates that when there is a political will to do this, it can be done relatively easily and relatively quickly.”

READ MORE: Charity's call to scrap 'unfair' dementia nursing care contributions system 

The proposed increase, if approved, will be introduced through a statutory instrument, a form of legislation which allow the provisions of an Act of Parliament to be brought into force or altered without having to pass a new Act.

Donald MacAskill, Chief Executive of Scottish Care, said the rise was positive news ‘as a whole’ but said free personal care contributions had not increased for a number of years.

According to Alzheimer Scotland, there were rises in 2013/14, 2014/15, 2015/16 and 2018/19 which amounted to increases of a few pounds a week.

Peter McClellan, from Dalmally, near Oban, whose 82-year-old mother has dementia and is in care home in Argyll said: “It’s a step in the right direction. I really don’t understand why people with dementia are exempted from NHS care.

“If somebody got in a car drunk and crashed into a tree and had brain damage, they would get NHS care for life, whereas someone who has a cognitive impairment through no fault of their own has to pay for care."

The plans will go before parliament and the health and sport committee and if approved, the rise will come into force on April 1. In order to extend free personal care to those with dementia under 65, a bill had to be enacted, which is a longer process.

READ MORE: The pandemic and Brexit blamed as care home residents face fee rises of up to £240 a month 

Alzheimer Scotland said that it did have some concerns the increase may be ‘subsumed’ by care home fee rises. 

The Herald reported earlier this month that residents are facing are facing monthly fee rises of up to £240 this year with private providers citing Covid-related costs for the sharp increase.

Mr Pearson said: “We have an anxiety that if people end up with an extra £20 for nursing and personal care payments, the care homes will just simply put their fees up.

“This is about recognising the cost of care for those who are contributing and it cannot be consumed by care homes. It’s happened before.”

Scottish Care said it annual negotiations around care home fees are ongoing and added: “It will be up to the local authorities the extent to which they use an increase in free personal care to limit their own increase.”

A review of adult social care, which was commissioned by the Scottish Government and is being led by Derek Feeley, a former director general of Health and Social Care in the Scottish Government, is due to be published in the next week or so. 

Mr Pearson said: “Whatever happens, even if it makes a recommendation for a national care service, where care is free at the point of delivery and which we would welcome - the reality is that it’s probably four or five years away from being implemented.

“If this happens it would negate the need for our campaign but it’s not happening tomorrow. 

“People with advanced dementia don’t have the time to wait. 

“We need something now which ends some of that inequity that they are facing.”

A Scottish Government spokeswoman said: “We have laid regulations in parliament to enable us to increase the rates of allowances for people who are paying self-funder rates for their residential care.

"The Health Secretary will publish further details to parliament next week.”