Council plans price hike to life-saving elderly homecare scheme
A struggling local authority is proposing to increase the price of a potentially lifesaving homecare scheme for the second time in a year, to help plug a massive budget deficit.
Conwy Telecare supports the elderly and vulnerable with technology in their homes seven days a week and 24 hours a day.
The technology allows vulnerable people to get help if they fall, need extra security, or to raise an alarm at the click of a button.
The service is intended to help people, especially the elderly, to remain safe and independent in their homes.
The service has a one-off installation fee and a daily rate to cover the cost.
But as part of a range of service cuts and extra charges, Conwy County Council plans to up the fee for the second time in a year so the authority can make a profit of £376,000 a year.
The cost of the service shot up in September from £182 to just over £310 annually, or around £3.50 a week increasing to £5.95, which allowed the service to break even.
Now Conwy is proposing to up the fee from £5.95 at break-even level to a weekly fee of £8 to make money from the elderly, despite the proposal being marked as ‘high risk’ – although what the risks are is not specified.
The controversial proposals follow the council facing a £25m black hole and has seen models for council tax as high as 11% – with widespread service cuts expected, including for schools.
Aberconwy MS Janet Finch-Saunders fears the price hike could pose a risk to life, labelling the proposals ‘disgraceful’.
“I’m even more concerned about the increase in costs to Telecare because it will be the second increase in the last 12 months,” said Mrs Finch-Saunders.
“So they are expecting the elderly and most vulnerable to be increasing their payments when people are already facing higher energy costs, higher food costs, and higher council tax increases.
“I just believe Conwy Council need to go back to the drawing board before they even dream of setting their budget because cuts to these kinds of services are just not acceptable.
“Telecare services are life and death. It helps to ensure that, if there is an emergency or if somebody falls or is unwell, they can press their button and services will get to them quickly. I do believe some people may decide to not renew it.”
Mrs Finch-Saunders seemed to suggest the council should first look at making redundancies before increasing the fees for the elderly.
“I honestly do believe that Conwy County Council need to go back and look at other measures,” she said.
“For instance, even though they can talk about staff freezes, we still see departments with numbers of staff that perhaps they could rationalise, and also on the entry (council report detailing the price increase), it says there is a risk of doing it. Why on earth would any council cut a service or increase the cost of it when there is an element of risk attached to it?
“Lives will be at risk without a Telecare service. If people decide they can’t afford it… my father’s life was saved by it on more than one occasion when he had fallen or when he was ill. It is a lifeline for people who are elderly, vulnerable, and living on their own. It is the last thing that needs to be cut. Families feel more assured by the Telecare service so if something were to go wrong and you aren’t around, you could access the service.”
She added, “It is an absolute disgrace.”
Cllr Charlie McCoubrey, leader of Conwy County Council, said: “All councillors at Conwy County Council are fully aware of the funding shortfall that the council faces as a result of national pay awards, inflation, energy, and fuel prices, and the increased demand for services.
“Just like other authorities across the UK, the council will have no choice but to reduce its expenditure in a number of areas and raise additional income, which is likely to have an impact on the level of services provided.
“It is inevitable that when councillors meet to finalise the budget on 29 February, they will have some difficult decisions to make.”
Support our Nation today
For the price of a cup of coffee a month you can help us create an independent, not-for-profit, national news service for the people of Wales, by the people of Wales.