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Welsh unrest over home care changes

21st February 2006

Four pilot schemes testing the suitability of free home care for the disabled in Wales were abandoned before completion, a disability lobbying group has discovered.

The Leonard Cheshire Group uncovered the information following the announcement by Welsh Assembly health minister Brian Gibbons last Wednesday that the government's manifesto pledge to abolish home care charges would not be met.

It appears a report published by Scottish academic Professor David Bell discouraged the government sufficiently for the proposals – and the pilot schemes – to be immediately shelved.

"Surely it would have made sense to evaluate their findings before making a decision on this key policy," Alison Goldsworthy, policy and campaigns officer in Wales for the Leonard Cheshire foundation, told the Western Mail.

"Disabled people are some of the most vulnerable in society, and the Assembly Government has a duty to relieve them of the financial burden imposed on them by home care charges."

Professor Bell, of Stirling University, had supported free health care for the disabled in Scotland in a previous report, but was not prepared to do the same for Wales.

Larger numbers of disabled people, together with the existence of a well-established informal carer network, prompted Professor Bell to conclude that free home care in Wales was both unnecessary and uneconomical.