Shock as the vulnerable get charged £250 for lifeline emergency Telecare service
Thousands of the most vulnerable pensioners in Dudley are now being charged £250 a year for their lifesaving emergency Telecare service.
This week Dudley Council began charging its tenants £21.50 a month to raise the alarm if they fall over, injure themselves or are lying prone on the floor desperately in need of help.
Currently 3,800 council tenants rely on the service but it is unknown how many will cancel Telecare due to the new charge leaving themselves extremely vulnerable if they have a medical emergency.
Labour’s Shadow Cabinet Member for Public Health and Adult Social Care Adam Aston believes lives will be at risk due to the new charges.
He said: “There are currently 3800 vulnerable Council tenants who receive the Telecare service in Dudley free of charge.
"I’m concerned that the sudden introduction of a hefty charge, albeit reduced by half until April, will result in people cancelling this vital method of summoning help when they fall over.
"The consequences of spending hours on the floor can include pressure sores, hypothermia and acute kidney failure even if the person didn’t suffer an injury from the fall. The cost to the NHS would likely dwarf that of proving the service in the first place."
Councillor Aston, who also works as an NHS Paramedic, added: “I’m calling for a ‘means tested’ approach so that Dudley’s most vulnerable residents who can’t afford the sudden £250 annual cost are protected and provided with the service at a significantly reduced cost.”
The personal alarm service has been running since 2010 and was always free, other councils, including Luton, followed Dudley's lead and set their own Telecare services up.
The Dudley Telecare Service has earned national plaudits for using technology to help the vulnerable operates 24 hours a day, 365 days a year. Professional call handlers, who are specifically trained to respond to customers emergency requirements, take calls or make response calls to customers which are triggered by the alarm products, checking if help or assistance is required.
The technology is also used to support children and families in their own home and can alert if assistance is required to carers, family or through to the control centre.
Councillor Matt Rogers, cabinet member for adult social care, confirmed the charges have been introduced.
He said: “We recently wrote to council tenants to inform them of our difficult decision to charge all user of our award-winning Telecare Service.
“Telephone network providers will switch from analogue to digital by 2025, resulting in significant increases in operating costs for the service, meaning we can no longer absorb charges through council rent.
“New and private users of the service pay around 70p per day and our existing council tenant users will be charged the same by April 2024, with a 50 per cent discount in place for these users over the next six months. "
He added: “We appreciate the implementation of charging will present concern for some of our users, but alternative schemes are more expensive and are unable to offer the 24/7 local response and assistance that we can provide.
“I would encourage all residents who receive help in relation to Council Tax, due to being in receipt of a low-income benefits, to get in touch as they could be eligible for a discount on community alarm charges.