INVERCLYDE has become the first council area in Scotland to scrap charges for respite care.

The local authority has been quick to act on new legislation giving carers a legal right to support.

The Scottish Government has committed £19.4 million towards the policy, including £2m for workforce development.

Last year, it became law for carers to be given support, from counselling and practical help to training and short breaks.

Prior to this, they were entitled to have their needs assessed but were not automatically guaranteed any form of assistance.

Councillor Chris McEleny, leader of the council SNP group and its health and social care spokesman, today welcomed the move.

He said: "Service users access residential respite as a result of critical or substantial carer needs therefore this policy first, funded by the Scottish Government - that charges should be waived - will make a real difference to carers in Inverclyde.

"The government has provided £17.4m to local authorities to fully fund the implementation of the Carers Act.

"Thanks to this we have been able to lift this financial pressure off of our carers."

Help is now available to those who meet the eligibility criteria.

The legislation specifically sets out a duty for local authorities to make provisions for short breaks for carers.