OAP leader's fury over bid to charge for lifeline
A CRUSADING pensioner is calling on Swansea Council chiefs to scrap plans to introduce charges for lifeline services for elderly and vulnerable residents.
Money problems have forced the authority to look to start charging for Lifeline community alarm and Telecare services for the first time since 2003 — although only those not eligible to get them for free will have to pay.
The move has been condemned by Gordon Carruthers, of Mayhill, life president of pressure group Wales Pensioners.
"A lifeline is a lifeline and surely pensioners should not have to pay for it," said Mr Carruthers, who uses the lifeline service himself.
"It just would not be humane and I think it should be opposed with all our power."
The services provides 24-hour rapid response support for older, disabled and other vulnerable Swansea people for use in their own homes, allowing independent living but with help available immediately when needed.
It can involve lifeline telephones, alarm pendants and other equipment.
People who, for example, fall in their home out of reach of a telephone can use their pendant to raise the alarm.
At the moment there are 7,250 individual Lifeline users in Swansea, along with 830 users of Telecare equipment. Telecare uses technology to help manage the risks associated with everyday activities.
It can be used to monitor health and wellbeing via devices which can be programmed to detect, for example, falls, flooding or the gas being left on.
It can also provide peace of mind by means of bogus caller buttons and smoke alarms.
At the moment the Telecare and Lifeline services cost around £618,600 to provide, but this is expected to rise to £904,300 because of pressures such as the need to replace old equipment.
It is thought that 5,000 of the current Lifeline users would end up paying for the service, generating £500,000 a year.
A special meeting of the council's health, social care and wellbeing overview and scrutiny board was due to consider a recommendation to approve the introduction of charges at a meeting today.
Board chairman Robert Francis-Davies said people had received the service free since 2003, and the equipment was bought with a one-off grant from the Assembly which had now ended.
"The board was asked to undertake a scrutiny of the current services and to consider how this valuable service to older people in Swansea can be sustained in the current economic climate," he said.
Mr Francis-Davies said the board had concluded the service fell short of that which could be provided if it was better funded.
He emphasised that the most vulnerable users of the service would not pay any extra charges. The charge for those not judged eligible to receive the free service would be expected to be around £100 a year, or £2 a week.
That is the same amount as Neath Port Talbot Council introduced for the service last October.
It is unlikely Telecare users would be expected to pay as they would have been assessed as needing a certain level of support.
Mr Carruthers said: "I am entirely against charging. They want to make us pay for everything.
"We have paid our price in the life we have given to the nation, through working and through governing in many cases."
A Carmarthenshire Council spokesman said: "The council charges just over £2 per week for its Lifeline service, although some people assessed as being in a high-risk category can receive a free service for a period of time through our Telecare programme."
Ability Answers supplies an alternative to the Lifelife alarm called the Phone Guardian 110. The Phone Guardian 110 is a panic button for the elderly that has no subscription charges and will contact friends and family members at the push of a button. For more information, visit this link (Click Here)