A CONTROVERSIAL “dementia tax” that penalises self-funding care home residents in the final years of their lives is one step closer to ending following a campaign by The Herald and Alzheimer Scotland that has received cross-party support.

The SNP yesterday pledged, if it is re-elected to government, to take forward the recommendations of a major, independent review of adult social care which calls for an almost doubling in free personal and nursing allowances.

Scottish Conservative leader Douglas Ross also backed the move along with Labour, LibDems and the Greens adding their support, the increase is almost certainly expected to be ratified at Holyrood.

Alzheimer Scotland has said people with advanced dementia are facing one of the biggest existing health inequalities because they are forced to foot the bill for nursing costs that are “free at the point of delivery” on the NHS for others with life-limiting illnesses. 

READ MORE: Scottish care home funding row as 97-year-old forced to pay full cost of fees

Jim Pearson, Alzheimer Scotland’s director of policy and research, said: “Alzheimer Scotland welcomes the news that all of the main political parties in Scotland have backed our Fair Dementia Care campaign.

“Fair Dementia Care means people with advanced dementia have equality of access to the health and nursing care they need which is free at the point of delivery, on a par with those who have other progressive and lifelimiting illnesses. The commitment from each of the political parties is a positive step forward, and one that we hope means people with advanced dementia are treated with the fairness that they deserve.”

The SNP has already implemented a 7 per cent rise this year in contributions but promised to go further if re-elected.

A review of adult social care, led by Derek Feeley, found that payments made to providers on behalf of self-funding residents “has not kept pace” with the cost of care.

READ MORE: Concern over rise in care home residents forced to sign 'fee guarantee' contracts 

Local authorities contribute around £180 per week for personal care and £81 for nursing care.

The Feeley report recommends that the allowances paid for selffunders should be increased to the same level as the National Care Home Contract, which would add £191 to the care allowance and £230 to the nursing component.

It is expected to cost around £116 million annually.

The report states: “Our recommendations mean that all people in Scotland will receive social care free at the point of need.

“The only costs that will remain are those for accommodation, either directly through fees for care home residents or indirectly through household costs for those receiving care in their own homes.”

An SNP spokesman said: “We are committed to taking forward the recommendations of the independent Feeley review of social care.

“Through the creation of the National Care Service, this will include increasing the funding for free personal and nursing care to a level that meets the reasonable level of the costs being incurred.

“As a step towards this we already uprated this funding by more than £10m earlier this year.”

HeraldScotland: The increase is almost certain to be ratified at HolyroodThe increase is almost certain to be ratified at Holyrood

Scottish Tories leader Mr Ross said: “Those diagnosed with this cruel disease deserve every possible support and that is why it’s so important to back this campaign.

“Targeted investment in research and care will have tangible benefits for existing and future sufferers, but also their families who often face the difficult challenge of providing care.

“Society has come a long way in talking about and understanding dementia but more can and must be done to raise awareness.”

Scottish Labour leader Anas Sarwar pledged to deliver a health recovery plan that puts care of the elderly “at the heart of social care”.

He said: “It’s great to see The Herald backing Alzheimer Scotland’s fight for free nursing care for people with advanced dementia, and I wholeheartedly support the campaign.

“No-one should have to pay for the care they need, and Scottish Labour will deliver a Health Recovery Plan that puts the care of our elderly at the heart of our social care.

“That means a National Care Service that will work to reverse narrow eligibility criteria for care costs.

“Scottish Labour will also introduce National Care Contracts that will promote consistent standards and quality of care across the country.

“People should never be left to struggle to pay for social care support. It must freely available at the point of need.”

READ MORE: Great-grandmother finally reunited with family after begging to leave care home

Both the Liberal Democrats and the Green party are long-standing supporters of Alzheimer Scotland’s Fair Care campaign.

Donald Martin, editor of The Herald and Herald On Sunday, said: “We are absolutely delighted our campaign has received the backing of all the major parties.

“Providing free care for dementia patients when they need it most will make a significant difference to so many lives and rights a terrible inequity.

“We look forward to Holyrood approving the changes when it reconvenes after the election.”

Alzheimer Scotland said it hoped that moves to implement a National Care Service would address other inequities including the level of fees paid by self-funders, to avoid the welcome increase in care contributions being “swallowed up” by steep rises.

A number of providers have implemented increases of up to 12% this year, citing increased staffing and infection control costs incurred through the pandemic.

The charity has said that self-funders “who are not wealthy people” are effectively subsidising the system as it stands.

Alzheimer Scotland said it was also increasingly hearing of elderly people being asked to commit to lengthy time scales “beyond which they could reasonably expect” to continue paying the same amount.

It said spouses and family members were also being asked to act as guarantors in fee arrangements when only the individual receiving care is liable for costs.

Mr Pearson said: “The family has no liability but what sometimes happens is that not only do care homes ask the resident to agree to pay the same amount for a fixed period of time, they will sometimes seek out a family member to sign as a guarantor that if the individual isn’t able to pay the fees they will do it.”