Ministers urged to act on ‘very low’ use of free healthcare

Nicola Sturgeon is being urged to reverse the ‘very weak’ trend since the introduction of Frank’s Law on free personal care for those under 65.

Mid Scotland and Fife MSP Liz Smith has revealed that only four people accessed the services between the legislation coming into force in 2019 and data collection stopping last year due to the Covid-19 pandemic .

She calls on the Scottish Government to set up a national recovery group to ensure that would-be care users are not left behind.

The Kirriemuir activist led the charge

Frank’s Law was introduced in memory of the late Dundee United footballer Frank Kopel and extends free personal care to under-65s with debilitating conditions.

Mr Kopel’s wife, Amanda, has led the charge to end age discrimination in the care system after she was forced into financial hardship because her husband was denied personal care free that those over 65 receive.

Former Dundee United star Frank Kopel

The Courier lent its full weight to the campaign and ultimately helped garner the cross-party support needed to ensure that new legislation would be brought before it.

It came into effect in April 2019, five years after Mr Kopel’s death, and was expected to benefit thousands of Scots.

But Liz Smith told MSPs that a freedom of information request found only four under 65s were recorded as having requested and received free personal care from 2019 to the end of 2021.

Data collection was postponed last year but restarted in August, so updated figures are expected to be released on May 10.

The MSP calls for a national recovery group

Ms Smith is calling on the government to back a proposal by fellow Tory Miles Briggs – who was also at the forefront of the campaign against Frank’s Law, to set up a national recovery group to ensure services are properly supported.

She said: “There are concerns about the slow implementation of free personal care through Frank’s Law.

Liz Smith, MSP for Mid Scotland and Fife

“Several of my constituents have contacted me as they are concerned about the general lack of data on this provided by the Scottish Government.

“The very low uptake of free personal care, which was found through the West Lothian Health and Social Care Partnership’s Freedom of Information request, highlights the seriousness of this problem.”

“We will do everything we can”

Social Affairs Minister Kevin Stewart said the Scottish government is “doing a number of things to make sure we get it right”.

“I think we need to pay close attention to the statistics that will be released in May to see how things are going, across the country, to make sure we’re doing it right for the under 65s,” he said. -he declares.

“We will continue to do everything we can to ensure that our intentions here are implemented and that people receive the care they need and deserve.”

Kevin Stewart MSP

But Ms Smith insisted that ‘many people will be keen to know the overall statistics on this issue’.

She said: ‘That’s why I asked the minister if he would reconsider his position and support my colleague Miles Briggs’ proposal to set up a national recovery group – in partnership with Cosla and others – to ensure that these services are properly supported.

“I will make sure to continue to press the Scottish Government on this.”

New systems can take time

In a message to supporters in 2019, as the new law came into effect, Ms Kopel said she hoped promises would be kept to ensure everyone who needed care received it.

“There can be no postcode lottery, no excuses when it comes to people’s lives,” she said.

“I ask people to have a little patience with the implementation of Frank’s Law, as I realize that any new system takes time to work.”

Ms Kopel wrote to Nicola Sturgeon later that year to express her concerns that the Scottish Government was not fully complying with Frank’s Law.

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