Two hundred old folk cannot afford their alarms

Image result for community alarms images

Alarm bells are ringing over SNP decision to charge old folk for lifting them up after a fall

By Bill Heaney

There is something intrinsically wrong with charging old people money to pick them up off the floor when they fall.

It’s even worse when you look upon elderly or disabled people as a soft touch from whom you can screw even more money to bolster your public service budget which is stretched because of your own ineptitude.

Constituency MSP, Jackie Baillie, has called on the Scottish Government to work with COSLA to undertake a Scotland-wide review of social care charges in light of the 100% increase to community alarms introduced by SNP-controlled West Dunbartonshire Council this financial year.

The MSP raised the issue at Portfolio Questions this week in the Holyrood parliament this week calling on Aileen Campbell, the Cabinet Secretary for Communities and Local Government, to urge West Dunbartonshire Council to think again.

Concerns have been raised by Ms Baillie in light of reports that more than 200 elderly and vulnerable people have cancelled their community alarm contracts with the local authority in this month alone due to the unbearable costs.

Jackie Baillie told The Democrat: “The 100 per cent increase in community alarm charges for elderly and vulnerable people in West Dunbartonshire is simply unacceptable.

“Hundreds of people have cancelled their community alarm contracts since the increase despite their circumstances remaining unchanged.

“It is clear that residents of West Dunbartonshire are being punished by SNP-controlled West Dunbartonshire Council with their eye watering increases to social care charges.

“I have asked Aileen Campbell, the Cabinet Secretary for Communities and Local Government to use her meeting with COSLA next week to highlight the ongoing issues and urge West Dunbartonshire Council’s SNP administration to think again.”

“In her response the Cabinet Secretary indicated that the Council had received more funding so the question has to be asked why is the Council increasing the costs for some of the most vulnerable people in our community?”

Aileen Campbell said: “I invite Ms Baillie to write to my office with the details and I will ensure that they are passed on to the relevant cabinet secretary so that we can engage in the round.

“I know that local authorities have been treated fairly in the budget process and that they will be given an increase in their resource budget when Parliament passes the budget. Perhaps the discussion that Ms Baillie needs to have is with her local authority.”

A similar situation is developing in Essex, where the local council is proposing a £25.92 ‘lifting charge’ to help elderly up when they fall.

The “lifting service” will mean Careline staff go to the home of the elderly person with a touch of a special alarm button.

Michael Le Cornu, chairman of the Tendring Pensioners’ Action group, told the Daily Mirror it meant people would in effect be “penalised for falling”.   He said pensioners had paid tax for health services all their lives – and were in effect being asked to pay again.

The council says it has already consulted customers and 60 per cent of those who responded said they were in favour of the move, which will increase their current £19.24 monthly bill.

The scheme hopes to reduce the need to call the ambulance for simple falls.

A pilot scheme offering the service was initially funded by the North East Essex Clinical Commissioning Group in association with the East of England Ambulance Service.


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