Hard-up OAPS can’t afford alarms - MSP

MSP Margaret Mitchell wants council re-think on alarm charges.

MSP Margaret Mitchell wants council re-think on alarm charges.

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Hundreds of elderly people have handed back their potentially life-saving personal alarms because they can’t afford the weekly £5 charge.

The claim has come from an MSP who branded North Lanarkshire Council’s decision to bring in the fee “short-sighted”.

The council accepted this week that some users will have pulled out of the service, but insisted the majority are paying the charge.

It was introduced in August as the council battled to balance its books.

A spokesman for North Lanarkshire Joint Integration Board, which oversees health and social work issues, said: “There is a charge for community alarms in almost all council areas of Scotland, and North Lanarkshire was one of the last places to introduce it.

“This decision was not taken lightly. We do our utmost to make difficult choices without affecting front line service users.

“Everyone affected has been informed and a full financial check is being offered to ensure they are receiving the benefits they should be.

“All public agencies are facing unprecedented pressure on their finances while demand is increasing due, in part, to an ageing population.

“We must be in a position to meet demand while protecting these important high quality services. In the case of community alarms, that means a charge of just 71p per day.

“We had projected that a number of people would elect not to continue with the service, despite the low cost. However, the majority of users have chosen to continue with the service.”

Central Scotland MSP Margaret Mitchell raised her concerns in the Scottish Parliament, saying hundreds of alarms have been sent back to social work staff since the summer.

Mrs Mitchell said: “It is extremely worrying that a huge number of these alarms have been returned by elderly people who are no longer able to afford them.

“These alarms provide elderly people with the re-assurance and confidence to remain in their own home.

“In an effort to save money in the short term, the council is putting elderly people at risk as they return these alarms. It is also a totally counter-productive policy. If the alarms are being returned there is no additional income received.

“However, there is potentially an increase in elderly people falling and being left for many hours before they can access help.

“This short-sighted decision makes no sense and I call on the council to think again.”