The cost of free personal and nursing care for elderly Scots reached a record high of almost £500 million in 2015-16, a new report has revealed.
Councils spent £371 million on personal care for those who receive help to allow them to continue living at home while a further £127 million went on free personal and nursing care payments for care home residents.
The £498 million total for the flagship policy compares to £327 million in 2006-07 - with the cost of providing assistance for elderly people living at home having increased from £228 million.
Meanwhile, the number of hours of care being provided to older people across Scotland has increased by almost 50% over the period.
Free personal care for the elderly was introduced in Scotland in July 2002, meaning those aged 65 and over could no longer be charged if they needed assistance in areas such as washing and dressing.
Almost 78,000 people in Scotland benefited from the policy in 2015-16, the Scottish Government report revealed, with nearly 31,000 people in care homes and approximately 47,000 people living in their own home all receiving assistance.
The number of people still living at home who need help has risen from a total of 40,410 in 2006-07.
The report explained: "The overall trend of more people receiving personal care services in their own homes reflects two underlying factors: an increasing older population and a move away from long-term care provided in hospitals and care homes towards care being provided in people's own homes for as long as possible."
People receiving help at home also require increasing levels of support, with the report showing the average number of hours of care they receive each week has increased from 6.8 hours in 2006-07 to 8.6 hours in 2015-16.
Over the period, the weekly average of the number of hours of personal care provided has increased by 48%, going from 272,900 hours in 2006-07 to 405,100 in 2015-16.
Prior to the introduction of free personal care it is estimated local authorities spent at least £64.5 million on year on such services.
The government report said: "The increase of spend on free personal care since its introduction reflects the shift away from care being provided in either care homes or hospitals towards more care being provided in people's own homes.
"At the same time there has been an increase in the proportion of home care clients receiving personal care services, with home care workers increasingly providing personal care services rather than domestic services."
In 2015-16, 95% of all those receiving required help with personal care - such as washing and dressing - compared to 71% in 2006-07.
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