Footballer Frank Kopel played in defence for many teams, but is most remembered for his 417 appearances for Dundee United over his ten years at Tannadice. He was the first signing for new manager Jim McLean on the 1st January 1972, and lifted up 2 trophies in his time there. In his professional football career, he played for Manchester Utd, Blackburn Rovers, Dundee Utd, Arbroath FC, finally ending up as assistant manager at Forfar Athletic FC.
A glittering career in anyone’s eyes, but in recent years his name was given to a Law that would change the way those under 65 access personal care in Scotland.
He met his wife Amanda when they were only young and they went from childhood friends to childhood sweethearts, inseparable for the rest of their lives. It is true that their first date was to a football match… but it was a cup game! The start of a life long love story. Frank Kopel was diagnosed with a mixed dementia in 2008, when he was only 59.
Frank's diagnosis came 6 years after the introduction of free personal care in Scotland. The Community Care and Health (Scotland) Act 2002 was seen as a ground breaking piece of legislation that meant local authorities could not charge for personal care tasks, including things like support with personal hygiene, at mealtimes, or with medication. At this time, the Act only applied to people who were 65 or older. For Frank, who likely would need access to personal care due to his illness, he would need to pay due to his age.
Amanda felt strongly that this inequality in the laws was unfair and began to ask questions. Why would they have to pay for Frank’s personal care, when someone with the same diagnosis, but over 65 receiving the same care would not?
Amanda set out to ensure anyone living with disabilities and degenerative conditions could access support, regardless of age. She met with Alex Neil, the Cabinet Health Minister at the time, whose life had also been touched by dementia. They both agreed that dementia was no respecter of age, creed, colour or gender when it came to a person’s door.
Alex became a champion of 'Frank's Law', even after he left his health post in 2014. With his support, Amanda raised a petition with the Scottish Parliament in 2013. Amanda travelled through to Holyrood to meet with the Public Petitions Committee many times during the campaign, and they heard the petition later that year.
The Public Petitions Committee was so convinced by Amanda Kopel’s evidence they wanted to take this forward and over the next couple of years, support grew for the extending of free person care to those under 65. Between 2013 and 2015 the Public Petitions Committee pushed for this with the Scottish Government and COSLA. During this time Frank sadly passed away, only 19 days after his 65th birthday.
Amanda kept on going, for all those that were affected and would be affected by this inequality. The Health Secretary, Shona Robison, ‘backed a fairer system’ but no legislation was promised. This did not stop Amanda from raising awareness of this issue and pushing for equality for all those who needed to access free personal care to receive it, free of charge.
In 2016 labour MSP Johann Lamont came in as the new convener of the Public Petitions Committee. Johann lodged a motion in parliament highlighting calls for social care charging to end which led to the issues being debated in Parliament in December 2016 with Labour, Conservative and Green MSP's backing. The Scottish Government decided to carry out a feasibility study into the introduction of free personal care for all.
Whilst the study was happening Conservative MSP Miles Briggs launched a private member's bill, as this was the only way they could see to get this carried forward. This led to the proposed Free Personal Care (Persons under 65) (Scotland) Bill opening for consultation at the end of June 2017 with the backing of all four opposition parties.
Finally, the Scottish Government announced that they would expand free personal care to those under 65 and the Free Personal Care Bill became law in 2019.
This was all thanks to the efforts of Amanda Kopel who never gave up on free personal care for all. In 2019 Amanda Kopel was presented with a unique Lifetime Achievement Award at Scotland's Dementia Awards as recognition of all the campaigning work she had done in her fight for equality. This was one of nine awards that Amanda received for her tireless efforts, also including an honorary doctorate from the University of Dundee and a BEM in the Queen’s New Years Honour Lists, all very emotional and proud moments for her.
“I had no hesitation in dedicating these awards to not only every person under 65 in Scotland who need the help of Frank’s Law, regardless of the disease, disability, illness or condition they are battling, but most importantly, I dedicated those awards to my soulmate Frankie, whose battle against dementia, was far harder than any battle I went through to end the blatant discrimination against the under 65s.” Amanda Kopel