SCOTTISH Labour leadership candidate Monica Lennon has vowed to end the ‘dementia tax’ that leaves those in the last years of their lives paying for nursing care that would be free if they had cancer.
The MSP said Scottish Labour under her leadership would include a policy commitment to review existing social care policies to ensure people with advanced dementia in nursing homes have parity of treatment.
Ms Lennon, who is Scottish Labour’s health and social care spokeswoman, said this was an “unfair” penalty on individuals and their families.
The Labour leadership hopeful has already backed Alzheimer Scotland’s Fair Dementia Care campaign as an MSP – which is endorsed by The . The charity said it was ‘delighted’ by her latest show of support.
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Former First Minister Henry McLeish was involved in the publication of the charity’s report, exposing the inequality faced by those with dementia.
Ms Lennon said she was proud that free personal and nursing care payments had been introduced under a Labour government but said the system had not adapted.
She pledged her support in advance of a major push by Alzheimer Scotland to win cross party backing for the campaign.
The charity will ask every MSP elected to Holyrood in May to sign a pledge backing Fair Dementia Care.
Ms Lennon said: “The Fair Dementia Campaign has shown that people living with advanced dementia in Scotland do not have equal access to the specialist health and nursing care that they need, and that must change.
“If I am elected Scottish Labour leader, delivering fair dementia care will be a key priority for our party going into the Holyrood election in May.
“I am proud that the last Scottish Labour government introduced free personal care. During our time in opposition, however, I am frustrated that whilst research and understanding of dementia has grown the system has not adapted.
“No one living and dying with dementia should be left to fall through the cracks. My vision for a fairer Scotland will have progressive dementia policy and free universal healthcare at its heart.”
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Last week an independent review of the care sector prompted by the pandemic backed the creation of a new National Care Service.
Derek Feeley’s report made over 50 recommendations for changes in the sector.
Alzheimer Scotland wants Fair Dementia Care introduced independently of the Feeley report.
They anticipate that, if accepted, the recommendations will take several years to fully implement but that Fair Dementia Care is more urgent and can be done quickly with the required political backing.
Last month the Scottish Government agreed a 7.5 per cent increase in the Free Personal and Nursing Care payments which are paid towards the costs of those living in care homes.
Alzheimer Scotland estimates that people with advanced dementia are paying for care costs of around £50.9 million every year.
The charity has warned that the effects will be made even worse by the pandemic.
Welcoming Ms Lennon’s backing Mr Simmons said: “Fair Dementia Care is one of the most significant campaigns Alzheimer Scotland has ever undertaken.
“There have been some welcome developments recently which go some way in addressing the inequities faced by people living with advanced dementia and their families.
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“The recent proposed increase of 7.5% to the Free Personal and Nursing Care payment is a positive step forward, but it doesn’t represent the real costs people are facing.
“Similarly, the Independent Review of Adult Social Care in Scotland report has recommendations about paying for care in Care Homes and we look forward to hearing more specific details on this recommendation.
“However, realistically, the implementation of the report’s recommendations could take several years to implement if brought to fruition.
“People with advanced dementia right now do not have that time to wait. We know what we are campaigning for can be delivered quickly using existing legislation.
“It just needs a political will. This is why we are delighted with the support from Monica Lennon MSP and we encourage others to follow suit.”