Vulnerable Sunderland residents hit with 70% price rise for vital service

Peter Stracey House resident Bill Bridgewood, who is unhappy with the price increase, with Coun George Howe, left.
Peter Stracey House resident Bill Bridgewood, who is unhappy with the price increase, with Coun George Howe, left.

Some of Wearside’s most vulnerable residents are set to be hit with a 70% price hike for a vital support service.

Sunderland Care and Support have confirmed that its Telecare service – which includes an alarm system – is going up from just less than £3 a week, to £5.

People are up in arms about it and I don’t know how they can justify this increase

Coun George Howe

Officials say the decision was taken as a result of “significant financial pressures” caused by government reductions in council funding.

But the increase has drawn stinging criticism from city councillor George Howe, the Conservative member for Fulwell.

He said: “This is a very important service, with a cord in place for residents to pull in the event of an emergency.

“Such a large price rise for this is absolutely out of the question.

“It’s such a huge increase and is beyond the rate of inflation.

“Everyone I have spoken to – mostly people in sheltered housing – is angry about this.

“People are up in arms about it and I don’t know how they can justify this increase.

“I think they’re taking advantage of the situation, and it’s a shame that people who are mostly senior citizens are being hit by this.”

Sunderland Care and Support is owned by and delivers its service on behalf of Sunderland City Council.

The price rise will particularly affect those living in sheltered accommodation.

One of those who will feel the impact is Bill Bridgewood, who lives in sheltered housing at Peter Stracey House, in Sunderland.

He said: “This increase in Telecare charges is completely beyond what we expected.”

The telecare service provides residents with a range of equipment, which is installed in their home and attached to an alarm system which, when activated, sends an alarm to a control room.

Highly-trained social and health care workers can then respond to the call.

The overnight care service helps to support vulnerable people with often complex needs to live at home.

Sunderland Care and Support chief operating officer Philip Foster said: “As a result of government reductions in funding to the council and an increased demand for adult social care services, Sunderland Care and Support is facing significant financial pressures.

“Due to this reduction in funding and other inflationary pressures that the Telecare Service has seen over the last 18 months, we have made the difficult decision to increase the weekly customer contribution for the service.

“This is from £2.93 plus VAT to £5 plus VAT per week.

“This weekly customer contribution still remains one of the lowest customer Telecare contributions in the North East, and indeed the country.

“The customer contribution comes to just over 71p per day and we feel this still offers good value.

“This is considering the Telecare Service provides 24/7 support and assistance, a wide range of technical equipment and highly trained mobile response staff.”

* Are you affected by the price increase? Call us on 0191 501 7477.