Health Minister calls for free health care for elderly

Health Minister Michael McGimpsey said he wants to prevent people from being forced to sell their homes to pay for their care when they are older.

Speaking during an Assembly debate on Free Personal Care, the Minister said that he had asked officials to bring him an early assessment of the costs and implications of a number of options including:

  • Excluding a person’s main home from any financial assessment

  • Increasing the level of assets/savings a person can hold

  • Increasing Personal Expenses Allowances

  • An update of the proposal originally put to the Executive in 2002

The Minister said: “There is an injustice in our society which sees the frailest members of our society being forced to give up their family home to pay for care in a nursing home. These people are being asked to contribute towards their care by losing their most valuable and hard earned asset – their home.

“My party has a manifesto commitment to Free Personal Care. It is an issue which was raised by the Assembly in 2001 and resulted in a report which estimated the cost of implementation to be over £40 million. I have asked for an urgent and comprehensive update on the 2002 report which will consider the experiences of Scotland and Wales and identify the cost of any other potential options.”

Personal care relates to tasks such as help with eating, dressing, washing and bathing, getting in and out of bed and keeping safe. In October 2002, a £100 payment to cover the costs of nursing care, both in a person’s home and in nursing homes, was introduced by health trusts.

Mr McGimpsey said: “Implementing Free Personal Care will require legislation and public consultation which could take more than two years to complete. There are other options which could be introduced more quickly to address the unfairness in the current system, including allowing people to keep their family home if they need residential care. I have asked officials to consider this urgently.

“Our primary aim is to help people maintain their independence and remain at home with the right care and support. Where this is not possible, they should not be punished for the misfortune of ill-health or disability. In a civilised society this cannot be right and I intend to do something about it.”


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