In spite of all the furore around Brexit, there are other very important decisions being taken, that I’m careful not to lose sight of.
Around 5,000 elderly or disabled people across Derbyshire who are frail or on a very low income benefit from subsidised community alarms and telephone care services to help them stay safe in their own home.
Nearly 700 older people in High Peak use the devices. The community alarm is a pendant you wear and can summon assistance by pressing the button. Telecare equipment monitors whether you have fallen, or it may check for water or gas levels in your home.
Older people really value this assistance which help them to stay independent. Derbyshire Older People’s Advisory Group told the Council last year that Derbyshire needed to do more to promote the service. Visually impaired residents highlighted the importance of technology in helping them to maintain their independence.
However, the County Council is proposing to ask thousands of older people on very low incomes, relying on housing benefit or pension credit, to pay for the service.
I attended Monday’s consultation meeting in Buxton along with just 3 local residents who were able to get there. We heard that more than 500 frail people in High Peak would have to pay either £15 a month (if they have a family carer available nearby) or £30 a month for the service, even though they are on reducing benefits.
Elderly residents were worried they couldn’t afford the charges, or they’d have to cut down on heating or other essentials.
Losing the devices would make older or disabled people less independent, and raises the risk of no one realising for far too long that they’ve had an accident at home. If only two or three elderly people can’t manage to stay in their own home because of these cuts and need residential care instead, it will cost the council more than the savings made.
I’m worried for the safety and independence of older people, and their families will worry even more.
We need more elderly people to be able to live independently at home. Derbyshire’s ageing population is forecast to rise by nearly 60% over the next 20 years, while the number of people aged 90 and over will treble. Technology can help, but it must be affordable.
The County Council must ask themselves if the risk of cutting the service is worth it?
This seems to be another false economy – one that will hit frail elderly people on very low incomes, but just about managing in their own homes.
The consultation is on the County Council website – please complete it to give your views, or to speak up for elderly residents affected.