Sheltered housing residents are putting their lives at risk to avoid new charges for a 24-hour emergency care alarm, it has been claimed.
The “Care Ring” service, which residents can use to alert staff when they are in difficulty, will be charged at around £12 per month – in addition to their rent, tax, building maintenance and energy bills – by mid 2014.
Around 15,000 residents currently use the free service, where an alarm unit and pendant alerts a response centre via telephone line when pressed.
Cash-strapped pensioners in Rothwell have reacted angrily to the fee, with dozens living at High Ridge Court, in Haigh Road, disconnecting from the Leeds City Council service.
Organiser at elderly support charity Rothwell Open Minds, James Reynolds, 78, fears people are being priced out of their own safety and has set up a petition to have the decision reversed.
Mr Reynolds told the YEP: “It’s a lot for somebody on a low income and coming to this time of year when we have the issue of fuel poverty I’ve known people here to actually sit in the dark and not have the heating on to save energy costs.
“People don’t realise the consequences of losing this. People don’t realise how much of a lifeline it is and how hasty they are to withdraw.”
Mr Reynolds said the majority of High Ridge Court residents have said they will withdraw from the service, while he has collected petition signatures from over 100 sheltered housing residents in south Leeds.
Resident Ivy Kaye, 85, who uses a walking frame and used Care Ring after a recent fall, said: “I’ve cancelled mine and I really need it but it’s outrageous what they’re charging.
“By the time I pay my rent and council tax I have hardly anything left in my pension and I don’t get help so I’m struggling.”
The council consulted residents before deciding on Care Ring charges earlier this year, which could raise over £3m for the council after they start at a reduced rate in January.
A spokeswoman said: “Unfortunately, due to increasing budget pressures we now have to charge for some services that were previously free.”
Call 0800 1380222 to discuss charges. Email firstname.lastname@example.org for petition details.