The widow of the late Falkirk-born footballer Frank Kopel who scored a massive victory for people with degenerative illnesses says the fight is now going into “extra time”.
Amanda Kopel began the Frank’s Law campaign in 2013 to fight for free personal care for people, regardless of their age, before her husband’s death from vascular dementia six years after being diagnosed at the age of 59.
Because Frank – who played football for Graeme High School in the early sixties before starring for Dundee United and Manchester United in his professional career – was under the age of 65 at the time of his illness, he did not qualify for free healthcare.
But that will now change after the Scottish Government announced last week that at least 9000 families throughout the country will benefit from the introduction of free personal care for everyone who requires it, whatever their age.
The policy change, however, will not be implemented until 2019, but Amanda has vowed to keep on fighting to have it brought in earlier than planned.
Amanda (67) told The Falkirk Herald yesterday (Wednesday): “I lived in hope for 52 months for this outcome and it was sheer elation when Nicola Sturgeon stood up there and announced it. It was a momentous day for me. I just burst out crying.
“But by not bringing this in until 2019 is just pulling the rug from under the feet of thousands of people. Some people are not going to be around by that time, trust me, I’ve walked in those shoes.
“We are talking about people’s lives here. No disease or illness hangs around and waits until you’re 65 or until 2019 to get you.
“I got very emotional when speaking to (Scottish Health Secretary) Shona Robison and I told her, ‘This is what it was like when I was told my husband had to hang on until he was 65 to get care’, and I cannot stand by and wait another 18 months.
“I think if you were going to announce this, why not have it all in place? Up to the day my Frankie died I was living in hope.”
Ms Robison said: “I am glad to have met with Mrs Kopel to congratulate her and to discuss the government’s plans. This change will help thousands of families across Scotland and Mrs Kopel has played a crucial role in bringing issues around personal care for under 65s to light and in ensuring they have remained prominent in the public’s mind.”
The Scottish Government issued a statement saying the April 2019 implementation of the policy is necessary to ensure, “all those who require personal care are able to access it”.
A Scottish Government spokesperson said: “This will include assessment processes to separate personal and non-personal care and putting the necessary legislative and guidance changes in place.
“Perhaps most importantly, working with local government and others to build up care capacity of properly qualified staff, so that no-one who is currently receiving care sees that diminished.”
Amanda also praised politicians and volunteers and supporters – ‘Frank’s Army’ – who helped the campaign.
She added: “There are so many people I need to thank, especially Frank’s Army and for all the cross-party support I’ve had in parliament from the likes of Alex Neill, Neil Findlay and Miles Briggs, who put their political differences aside for the people of Scotland. I wish I could hug every one of them.”
Amanda and Frank’s love blossomed when they were bairns
Frank and Amanda Kopel were childhood sweethearts who grew up together in the same Falkirk street.
Amanda says she still remembers his first words to her as the football-daft youngster spotted her for the very first time.
Amanda said: “The first time I ever saw him was when I was walking out of my gate in Westfield Street and he was coming out of his with a football under his arm. I was ten and he must have been 11 or 12 at the time.
“He asked me if I was going to the park to play and I said yes. He then asked me if I was going to play football and I was horrified because girls didn’t play, but off we went to the park together.
“Two years later we had our first kiss at a party in the street playing postman’s knock. He asked me out afterwards and took me to a football match. We married in Falkirk in 1969.”
Frank Kopel (March 28, 1949 – April 16, 2014), a left back, had an 18-year professional football career. He was a Scottish schoolboy international before signing as a schoolboy for Manchester United in 1964 and turned professional in 1966, making his debut in 1967.
He stayed at the club until 1969 transferring to Blackburn Rovers before leaving in 1971 and joining Dundee United in 1972 as new manager and Scottish football legend Jim McLean’s first signing.
He remained at Tannadice for ten years making nearly 400 first team appearances, winning two League Cup and two Scottish Cup runners-up medals.
He moved to Arbroath as a player/coach before retiring from playing in 1984. He was assistant manager at Forfar Athletic.
He made his European debut for Manchester United in 1968 against Anderlecht, and scored against the same club in Europe for Dundee United 11 years later in the Uefa Cup.