Amanda Kopel: Fight for Frank’s Law

I hope I can do a lot of people in Scotland proud and that Frank’s Law can too.

AManda kopeL

Amanda Kopel

Amanda Kopel of the small Angus town, Kirriemuir. A wife, a mother and a grandmother and, arguably, most importantly an inspirational woman who has vigorously campaigned for change in the care system in Scotland. Mrs Kopel fought for Frank’s Law in the memory of her late husband Frank. The law would see people under the age of 65 receive personal care for free when they are assessed to require it.

Amanda and Frank

Amanda met Frank Kopel when she was just 8 years old and Frank was 10. The pair lived opposite from each other and became childhood sweethearts a few years later after sharing their first kiss playing a game called “postman’s knock” at a friends party.

The following day Frank took Amanda to a football game for their first date. A day out to Recreation Park to watch Alloa Athletic. Their relationship went form strength to strength and a few years later Amanda got engaged to Frank, becoming Mrs Kopel in 1969.

Frank was a professional footballer, a Dundee United legend who played for a number of teams with a career spanning over nearly 20 years. Amanda moved around where Frank’s career took him, settling with her husband in Kirriemuir, Angus not too far away from Dundee where Frank became well respected player for Dundee United.

Last year would have seen Amanda celebrating her and Frank’s Golden Wedding Anniversary but unfortunately Frank passed away in 2014. Saddened, Amanda wishes that Frank could have been here to celebrate. To see their granddaughter Kendal get married last year, their son and daughter in law celebrate their Silver Wedding Anniversary, their grandson Ryan’s thriving in his performing career.

Frank’s Illness

Amanda’s husband Frank was diagnosed with vascular dementia at 59, a week before his 60th birthday. At the time he was a fit and active man. As the disease progressed, the damage to Frank’s brain meant that he was unable to care for himself, he could not even swallow his food without choking and had to be hand fed. He no longer knew how to sit down, never mind kick a football.

At the time of the diagnoses both Amanda and Frank worked, there were two incomes. However, due to the impact the disease had on Frank he lost his job and then Amanda had to leave her job in order to care for him. With a mortgage to pay, utility bills and running a house, it was not easy. There were also now extra costs that Amanda had to worry about. Heating bills increased as the house had to be warm to help Frank’s circulation. Bed linens, duvets, extra clothing, wipes all had to be bought regularly as Frank became incontinent. Significant weight loss meant that Amanda had to buy her husband clothes as well as paying to get Frank to and from the high dependency care unit every weekday – a thirty mile round trip for Amanda 5 days a week. Amanda had to sell Frank’s Manchester United blazer in order to afford the care that her husband needed. A special possession from his apprentice footballer days down in Manchester, but needs must. Costs needed to be covered.

Amanda took care of Frank at home as throughout the early days of his diagnosis and even nearer the end in his lucid moments he wanted to stay at home. He felt more comfortable and settled there. Amanda wanted him to feel safe and as well as possible, she wanted to do everything that she could.

It was during Frank’s illness, through the journey that Amanda went through with her husband, that they discovered the discrimination that was apparent against under 65 year olds. Those under the age of 65 who were in need of personal care after being assessed due to any disease, disability or illness were not eligible to receive the care they needed for free. They had to pay or go without.

Free personal care for over 65 year olds was first introduced by the Labour/Liberal Democrat coalition in 2002, but between 2002 and 2014 there had been no talk of introducing this type of free care to any other age group – no matter how much they needed it.

Starting the Campaign

“Tell them Amanda, it’s too late for me, but it will help others in the future”

Frank Kopel to his wife amanda

Amanda remembers the words Frank said to her, the determination he and her shared to help others in the future.

After promising she would do what she could she was determined not to break her promise to him, just like he would never have broken his promise to her if the shoe was on the other foot.

In June 2013 Amanda started the Frank’s Law campaign. The aim – to extend free healthcare to people under the age of 65. To help people like Frank who were suffering from dementia and other illnesses which meant that they needed round the clock care. Family members who had to become carers would be helped too, Amanda was passionate and knew she could make a difference.

Amanda’s first aim was to get people to back the Bill. Travelling around and speaking to everyone that she could to inform them what Frank’s Law was and what it would do for the people of Scotland. Tirelessly, Amanda arranged meetings with medical people, councillors, civil servants, MSP and MPs seeking out people who needed to know, spreading the word about Frank’s Law. She urged people to take part in a members bill which would pave the path for an the enactment of Frank’s Law.

Amanda had to fight to gain support from many people and organisations in order for her cause to be taken seriously. Support in numbers was important for Amanda and additionally getting organisations and politicians on board was crucial for Amanda’s fight for Frank’s Law.

Frank’s Army was formed and began to grow in numbers. From all walks of life, all ages, creeds, colours and genders. Not only from Scotland but from around the rest of the UK, Europe, the US and many other countries around the world.

Dundee United football club was a big support for the cause. The team as well as the fans stood with Amanda and helped in the fight for Frank’s law. From signs and displays on match day to appearances pitch side from Amanda and Frank himself before he passed away to spread the word and build up backing for the campaign. Even the colour of Frank’s Law campaign shirts linked the cause to football team – a whole lot of tangerine!

Frank’s Law campaign displays at Tannadice Park, the home of Dundee Uniter FC and Frank Kopel in his playing days at DUFC

This is something that Amanda and her late husband never imagined she would be campaigning for. She explained that the disease knocked on their door without an invite and took over the life of a fit man. She never wanted to do this, it is not something she set out to do before it was instead something that she felt needed to be done. For the people of Scotland.

People began to listen. To side with Amanda and really understand that Scotland needed Frank’s Law. It was not just a constitutional matter, but a national matter. Barriers, many of them, stood in her way but the strength and determination persisted. Amanda documented her campaign through different platforms using Facebook specifically as she set up a Frank’s Law page to get the message across and keep followers up to date on her progress. She also had a good relationship with the press, especially local Dundee papers, throughout.

June 2017 came. Amanda was invited to witness the launch of the Private Members Bill at Holyrood. Conservative MSP Miles Briggs brought forward the Bill to deliver Frank’s Law.

Three months after the Private Members was launched in June 2017, First Minister Nicola Sturgeon made a long awaited announcement.

Amanda Kopel at Holyrood

On the 5th of September 2017, after fifty two long months of campaigning Amanda received the news she had been waiting for. Frank’s law was going to be delivered.

This was a win, but it was a cruel one. Amanda felt that many under 65s who had been living in the hope for help, were not having their hopes dashed and told to wait until April 1 2019. An eighteen month wait that may just be too little to late for some. Feat tainted by frustration, delight somewhat spoiled by disappointment. She stressed that time waits for no one.

“I know that he would be so pleased I had not broken my promise to him, and that so many people in Scotland are now being helped by a law named after him, and that his death was not in vain”

Amanda kopel

Even though there was some time to wait Amanda had still succeeded. Officially titled the Community Care (Personal Care and Nursing Care) (Scotland) Amendment (No. 2) Regulations 2018, Frank’s Law came into effect on April 1 2019.

The announcement was not just about Frank. Amanda emphasises that it is not simply about her. She did not do this alone. However, she was undoubtedly the driving force behind the amended regulations which included £40 million of funding from the Scottish Government to Scottish councils to allow them to implement the policy.

Now, for over a year, people can no longer be charged for personal care services that they are assessed as requiring. These services range from support with personal hygiene to food preparation or simply getting out of bed in the morning. It is thought that Amanda’s effort will allow at least 9,000 families to benefit from then extension of free personal care for those under 65.

Bad Days

Thursday the April 16 this year marks the 6th anniversary of when Amanda’s Frankie died in her arms. Their son Scott sat with the Amanda as his dad took his last breath.

Dementia snuck into Amanda’s life and sadly took away her husband. But she takes pride in the fact that his name carries on. That a law has been named after him and that there are many people who will benefit from the work that Amanda has done, in the name of her late husband.

Amanda’s Awards

In 2017 Amanda was honoured by Scotland’s leading dementia charity for her successful battle to make Frank’s Law a reality. Alzheimer Scotland gave Amanda special recognition for her “tireless commitment and dedication to improving the lives of many people with dementia in their families”.

Mrs Kopel received the Amazing Woman Award in 2018. She was recognised for her amazing efforts to Scotland and Scots law through her fight for Frank’s Law. Amanda was hailed as an “amazing inspiration” and a very deserving winner of the award for being the driving force behind Frank’s Law.

At the end of 2018 Amanda received a letter from the Cabinet Office. She could not bring herself to open it, she assumed it was something negative. She thought she might be getting a telling off for speaking out too much, making too much fuss. Instead, the letter detailed that Mrs Kopel was to receive the British Empire Medal for the years of commitment to ending discrimination in the care system. She was over the moon, could not believe it. A sense of pride that she had kept her promise to her late, beloved husband.

Just last year Amanda was recognised for her tremendous efforts at Scotland’s Dementia Awards. She was honoured to receive a Lifetime Achievement Award at the ceremony last September. As humble as ever she insisted that the person who actually deserved the award was Frank. However, Amanda’s six year hard- and ongoing- campaign makes her more than worthy of recognition.

“Insulting”

Suggestions that Amanda’s campaign was in order to receive compensation were not taken lightly. Mrs Kopel hit back at the accusations, describing the “slur” as “extremely insulting”.

Amanda emphasises that it was never about the money, never about trying to get any compensation. No amount of money would bring her Frankie back.

What next?

The fight is not over yet. People are still getting in touch with Amanda to share their experiences and how they are struggling to get the help they so desperately need, and deserve, from Frank’s Law due to the way in which the law has been implemented.

For example, the campaigner highlighted her anger when South Ayrshire Council scrapped Frank’s Law funding in July last year- just three months after the legislation came into force. Amanda was “furious and distraught” at the actions from local authority, reaching out to First Minister Nicola Sturgeon to ensure this does not happen elsewhere in Scotland. Just one example of the continued dedication that Mrs Kopel shows.

Amanda has also shown her ongoing passion to help people who went through what her Frankie went through. She has raised money to help find a cure for dementia by selling Frank’s Law campaign shirts. The shirts were signed by an array of famous people, including many sports stars like Rio Ferdinand and John Barnes.

Rio Ferdinand with signed Frank’s Law campaign shirt
John Barnes with signed Frank’s Law campaign shirt

Continuing to use her determination to help others she has backed the Scottish Football Association’s move to ban children from heading footballs. Amanda applauds the work that is still being done to protect people from the dangers of dementia but encourages that more must be done to prevent brain trauma that contributes to this and other awful diseases.

Through her campaigning Amanda has formed close bonds with wives of other footballers whose lives have been impacted due to brain injuries- possibly related to heading footballs. Including Liz, the wife of Celtic legend Billy McNeill and Dawn, daughter of Bromwich Albion star Jeff Astle.

She has also continued to be involved in fighting for rights for carers. Amanda co-chairs the Conservative initiative with spokesman Miles Briggs. The review group was launched in her home town of Kirriemuir and will look at existing policies and possible policy changes to help hundreds of thousands of carers throughout Scotland. It aims to work with 790,000 carers in Scotland as well as charities and support groups. Findings will be used to inform the Conservative manifesto going into the 2021 Scottish election.

Bittersweet

It really is bittersweet in a way for Amanda as the person who she really wants to share all this good news with is Frankie, who is no longer here. She says that her late husband has guided her, kept her going through the long fifty two months that it took to get Frank’s Law implemented and the ongoing battle to make sure that people throughout Scotland who need personal care get it under the new regulations that Amanda fought so hard for.

However, Amanda truly believes that Frank is walking beside her every step of the way. Giving her the strength and adding to the passion that she has. Truly a woman who has changed the law for the better, and more importantly helped the people of Scotland.

Related Links

Frank’s Law Facebook page

Alzheimer Scotland

Young Dementia UK

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