THE Scottish Government's announcement that it is going to "fast track" a 7.5 per cent increase in Free Personal and Nursing Care (FPNC) payments to people in care homes by means of a statutory instrument ("Scots with dementia get more cash to help with costs", The Herald, January 30) is pure spin. Decisions about whether or not to uprate FPNC payments are decided each year as part of normal annual budget-setting processes and any uprating always requires a statutory instrument.

What is far more significant is the announcement pre-empts the report of the "Independent" Review of Adult Social Care which is due to be published in the next week and is now with Scottish ministers. It appears that that report will not address the fundamental issue, the privatisation of care and charging for what was once provided free, but will instead recommend yet more FPNC sticking plaster.

While FPNC payments have never been sufficient to cover the real cost of care and often haven't been increased in line with inflation, the real problem is that they don't benefit the people forced to pay care home fees. As Caroline Wilson's article shows, the proposed £19.50 weekly increase this year hardly dents the £60 increase already imposed by some providers. Alzheimer Scotland is right to be concerned that more providers will follow.

It’s been like this since 2002 when the Scottish Parliament introduced FPNC to compensate older people for having to pay for services. Instead of benefiting them, FPNC payments have simply fuelled provider profits. Private fees have been hiked above inflation year on year, while care staff receive rock-bottom pay rates and training.

The result, according to the 2019 Report from the Centre for Health and the Public Interest is that 10%-20% of what’s charged in fees "leaks out" through rental payments, interest on loans, and profits. That means a self-funder charged £1,000 a week could be getting the same care for £800. Instead £200 ends up in places like the Cayman Islands.

The original intention of the Scottish Parliament was that people could protect themselves from such financial exploitation by choosing to come under the National Care Home Contract, where fee levels are fixed. That right has never been enforced and there is now hardly a provider in Scotland that offers that choice.

The Covid crisis has shown the private care home sector is beyond reform. While it might take time, there is no reason why the Scottish Government shouldn’t introduce legal caps on profits and fee levels now. That would be of much greater benefit to people in care homes than increasing FPNC and would cost nothing. There is a legal precedent for this in foster care for children where services, by law, are not for profit. There is also a political precedent in Nicola Sturgeon's vow, following the publication of the Independent Care Review for Children last year, that all children's services should be not for profit. Older people and their families deserve nothing less.

Nick Kempe, Glasgow G41.


MARK Boyle (Letters, January 29) is right in saying that Calmac has got away with its abominable service for decades but he is wrong in blaming Labour and Tory politicians. First, the Conservative Party has never been in power at Holyrood, from where Transport Scotland is run.

The SNP has been responsible for this expensively and badly-run quango which, unfortunately, the islands of Scotland depend on for their connectivity and economic survival. Very few residents of Arran, Bute or Mull are happy with the Calmac service, whereas Dunoon residents have a basic but reliable and frequent ferry service provided by a private company, Western Ferries.

The Scottish Government should end the near-monopoly service provided, at great cost to the taxpayer, by Calmac to the islands and offer the ferry routes (some subsidised) to private operators. These operators would give a superior service (see Dunoon-Gourock route) at a fraction of the cost to the Scottish taxpayer. Only the Conservative Party in Scotland would bring privatisation to the ferry services to the island communities.

Harry Monaghan, Paisley.


THE Government advert "Stay Home, Stay Safe" has caused some controversy by its use of gender stereotyping, showing women carrying out chores and a man sitting on a sofa doing nothing.

Catriona Stewart has eagerly pounced on this and displayed confirmation bias which I have noted from some of her previous articles ("Mums don’t need thanks, Mr Sunak",The Herald, January 29). An advertising agency employed by the Government has shown poor judgment by putting out this advert in disregard of the Advertising Standards Authority's guidelines about gender stereotyping.

However, none of this supports Ms Stewart's case that modern men do not share household chores and childcare. In my experience, and that of my friends, they most certainly do. They just don't make such a big deal about it like some women do. This is a plea for men to be shown as much respect for their contributions to modern family life, as women are shown.

Elizabeth Mueller, Glasgow G12.

*I UNDERSTAND the disquiet of Uzma Mir and her contemporaries at the now-withdrawn Government Stay at Home advert ("My old dad’s still on the recliner and my mum’s still at the ironing board", The Herald, January 30).

Like her parents, my wife and I have passed our 55th wedding anniversary, also without too much aggro along the way.

While my better half nurtured our three children, their schooling, citizenship and pocket money, dealt with tradesman, day-to-day domestic issues, holidays, finance and savings, I took responsibility for the BIG decisions: local council, Holyrood and Westminster elections, sporting allegiance, the choice of family car, wine, the remote control, and the weather forecast.

It’s all about sharing and playing to one’s strengths.

R Russell Smith, Largs.