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Thousands face up to £700 bill for 24-hour care alarm service

By Charlotte Callear | Walsall | Health | Published:

Thousands of people could be charged hundreds of pounds for a lifeline alarm system that helps them access care in Walsall.

The borough council is considering whether to bring in charges for the Community Alarm Service, which could cost users £728 per year. It is currently free to use.

It costs the local authority almost £1.3 million each year to run – not including additional costs to upgrade the equipment, according to a report.

The charges could impact around 7,000 people who use the vital service, which provides a 24-hour, seven-day-a-week care service for people who need extra support.

The council’s opposition leader says it will make the ‘most vulnerable worse off’.

Councillor Sean Coughlan said: “It is going to be a massive issue for the borough.

“Quite clearly, they are now seeing the reality of austerity and they now have to deal with the problems that we had started to put right.

“Once again the Conservatives are making our most vulnerable worse off. We will have to see what the consultation has to say.”

As part of the authority’s four year financial plan until and including 2020, cabinet members agreed an annual reduction of £567,000 for the service – resulting in an available budget for 2019/20 of less than £500,000.

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Walsall is the only area in the Black Country that does not charge for the service.

Councillor Mike Bird, council leader, said: “Walsall Council is consulting on the future of the Community Alarm Service in connection with the four-year budget set in February 2017.

“The consultation is important to enable the council to gain a clear picture of the preference of service users so this can be given full consideration during the decision making process.

“The consultation remains open until September 21 and all interested persons are encouraged to have their say.”

Visit Walsall Council consultation page to have your say.

Charlotte Callear

By Charlotte Callear
@CCallear_Star

Reporter based at the Express & Star's Wolverhampton head office

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