The widow of footballer Frank Kopel said she was “ecstatic” a bill has been lodged at Holyrood to extend free care to under-65s with conditions such as dementia.
A member’s bill brought forward by Tory MSP Miles Briggs seeks to implement the so-called Frank’s Law, named after footballer Mr Kopel, the former Dundee United player who died in 2014 after a battle with dementia.
Frank’s Law aims to end the situation where people under-65 who have conditions such as dementia, motor neurone disease, Parkinson’s, multiple sclerosis and cancer have to pay for the care they need.
It has been backed by The Courier, which previously won an award for its involvement.
His widow Amanda joined Mr Briggs and other MSPs at the Scottish Parliament as the legislation – which could cost an estimated £40 million to £60 million a year – was introduced.
A consultation will now take place but there is majority support for the change at Holyrood, with the Conservatives, Labour, the Liberal Democrats and the Greens all in favour.
Mrs Kopel said: “I’m totally ecstatic about this. It’s been a long four years since Frank and I began the campaign and in that time we lost Frankie to that horrible disease.
“But every day I can still hear him saying the words to me. He turned to me one day and said ‘Amanda, tell them. It’s too late for me but it’s going to help other people’.
“I’m absolutely delighted that Miles Briggs and his team, and a lot of cross-party members, have now brought this day to fruition.”
Grandmother-of-two Mrs Kopel said conditions such as dementia, cancer and motor neurone disease “don’t wait about till you’re 65 and then suddenly strike”.
As well as the consultation, the Scottish Government is carrying out a feasibility study into extending free personal care.
Mr Briggs said he hoped that when that was completed the Scottish Government would make the change – but vowed he would push ahead with legislation if not.
He said: “There’s a majority in the Parliament for this, every party apart from the SNP have signed up to making this change, and I hope they will come on board.
“The first Parliament united to pass free personal care, this is rectifying the wrong of having age discrimination in there, so I hope this is an opportunity for all parties to be proud of ending that and that that would be something we as a Parliament could have achieved.”
Former health secretary Alex Neil backed the proposals but added: “When we introduced free personal care itself, the London government took away the attendants’ allowance of people who were getting free personal care and the result was they didn’t get the net benefit they should have done.
“People under 65 are entitled to certain benefits, so one of the things we need to be absolutely sure about is that if we give them free personal care, they don’t then lose a benefit.”
Health Secretary Shona Robison said the Government was already committed to examining the extension of free personal and nursing care to those under 65 “while protecting existing provision”.
She said: “We are currently running a feasibility study to consider the costs, benefits, challenges and consequences of extending free personal care, including analysis of the additional demand for care likely to be created and the relationship with social security provision. This will be completed over the summer.
“As part of this work, we are meeting with all relevant partners, including service user organisations and Cosla.
“We have already made progress on fairer charging for social care by providing local authorities with £6 million to increase charging thresholds and £5 million from this April to ensure that armed forces veterans who receive social care benefit from the full value of their war pensions.”