The Scottish Liberal Democrat conference in Perth has today unanimously passed a motion re-affirming the party’s support for Franks Law.
The motion also went on to urge the Scottish Government and the SFA to examine what support can be given to ex-football players suffering from dementia. The commitment follows fresh calls from former professionals and their families, including from Liz McNeill, the wife of former Celtic captain Billy McNeill who suffers from dementia.
Frank’s Law is named after former Dundee midfielder Frank Kopel who was diagnosed with dementia at the age of 59. At present, anyone under the age of 65 who requires personal care for conditions such as dementia, motor neurone disease, Parkinson's and multiple sclerosis has to fund the cost of the care themselves. However, for those over the age of 65, that personal care is free.
Commenting after closing the debate, North East MSP Mike Rumbles said:
“I am delighted that conference has unanimously voted in favour of re-affirming our support for Frank’s Law.
“While Liberal Democrats were instrumental in introducing free personal care for the elderly, it is absolutely essential that action is now taken to ensure people under the age of 65 with a degenerative illnesses have access to the personal care and support they need.
“Frank’s widow, Amanda Kopel deserves great credit for forcing this issue on to the political agenda and keeping pressure on the Scottish Government to act.”
Mr Rumbles, who represents the North East, added:
“What’s more, today party members recognised the number of ex-footballers who go on to suffer from dementia in later life.
“That is why Scottish Liberal Democrats are urging the Scottish Government and the SFA to examine what support can be given to ex-football players suffering from dementia and support research into the potential link between brain injuries, dementia and football.”
Notes to editors:
Frank’s Law calls on the Scottish Government to legislate to enable those under the age of 65 suffering from these conditions to access free personal care. In Scotland an estimated 3,200 people aged under 65 have dementia, an increase of a third in the last six years.
The Scottish Liberal Democrat manifesto 2016 contained a commitment to bring in Frank’s Law and ensure personal care services are available free of charge for people with dementia at all ages. Leader, Willie Rennie MSP, recently joined the leaders of the other opposition parties outside the Scottish Parliament in a show of support, although the SNP failed to turn up.
The motion adopted by conference states:
- In Scotland an estimated 3,200 people aged under 65 have dementia, an increase by a third in the last six years.
- Frank Kopel, a former Dundee United player, suffered from vascular dementia for 6 years but only became eligible for free personal care shortly before his death.
- Franks Law proposes individuals who suffer from dementia, motor neurone disease, or other degenerative illnesses receive free personal care regardless of their age.
- Dementia among former footballers is increasing, as evidenced by research published by Stirling University in 2016 that found "small but significant changes in brain function" while Alzheimer Scotland has announced that it intends to hold a "football and dementia summit".
- Free personal care for the elderly was introduced by Liberal Democrats in the Scottish Executive and has been a success, but further action is now required to address the injustice Franks Law will address.
- That a person suffering dementia under the age of 65 will, in all probability, have lost their job and income but still be further disadvantaged by the cost of personal care, and recognises the work of The Courier and Amanda Kopel in raising awareness of this issue.
- That research into the links between football and dementia remains limited, and a concerted effort from sport and the research community is now needed - starting with a study about the incidence of dementia among former footballers.
Conference re-affirms its 2016 Manifesto support for Franks Law and calls on the Scottish Government to legislate to enable those under the age of 65 suffering from these conditions to access free care.
Conference urges the Scottish Government and the Scottish Football Association to (i) examine what support can be given to ex-football players suffering from dementia, (ii) develop research into the potential link between brain injuries, dementia and football, and (iii) respond swiftly to the publication of any research.