'Vulnerable will suffer' if charges are applied to Home Safeguard

INTRODUCING charges for the Home Safeguard service will bring hardship to the elderly and vulnerable customers.

INTRODUCING charges for the Home Safeguard service will bring hardship to the elderly and vulnerable customers.

That is the view of Honiton Senior Council member Tony Simpson.

His concerns follow a recent decision at East Devon District Council to introduce charges for the service, which is currently free.

Mr Simpson said: "This decision will impose extra hardship on the elderly and vulnerable."

He also said he had been told that some may be exempted from paying the charge, but they would have to be means tested.

He said: "It is a free service now, but they will have to be means tested.

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"While this council says some other councils charge, we can find some that don't."

Mr Simpson said he would be contacting the Department for Work and Pensions, as well as consulting with other East Devon branches of the Senior Council. He said: "We will raise the issue at the Assembly of the Senior Council for Devon."

He also said he had been in touch with Devon Link, which offers people the chance to have a say on health and social services.

He said neither the Senior Council nor Devon Link had been consulted before the decision was made.

A spokesman for EDDC said: "Tenants of EDDC's Sheltered Housing stock using Home Safeguard will experience no change in their situation. They already pay a support charge on their rents. Members deliberated long and hard over the question of charging for the alarm service for other clients, and the decision was not taken lightly. There is a mechanism to ensure that vulnerable customers are not disadvantaged in that the council has the ability to provide free alarms where there is a case of genuine hardship.

"It should be understood that no other alarm provider issues free alarms. EDDC is coming into line with the rest of the market at a time when the council cannot continue to subsidise the cost of this service.

"EDDC had been issuing, on average, nine free alarms a month, which was undermining the financial viability of the Home Safeguard service and preventing us from marketing to new customers. Those in hardship should be eligible for welfare benefits designed to meet the cost of alarm services.

"The council's key consideration is to ensure that the service can survive and generate income to make it self-financing so we can invest in upgrades to improve and extend the service for the benefit of our customers.

"So far as consultation is concerned, this was a business decision and it would not be appropriate to consult externally.