A PENSIONER has hit out after cash-strapped council bosses introduced a fee for security alarms in OAP homes.
Thomas Tutty lives in a Gentoo bungalow in Grindon, fitted with a Telecare alarm. The system is connected to a phone line, so when a button is pressed, it contacts care staff 24-hours-a-day.
Thomas, 69, who has lived in the property for six years, was shocked when in April he was informed he would need to start contributing £3 per week to its cost.
After not responding to the letter from the City Council, he was disgusted when about two weeks ago, he got another telling him the alarm would be removed.
He said: “I’ve lived here for six years so I don’t understand why I’m only being asked to pay for it now. I signed all the contracts when I moved in and understood the cost was included in the rent.”
The father-of-one said he contacted Telecare to ask them to remove the system, and take with it an alarm box, which is a permanent property fixture, and usually left in case future residents want to use it.
Thomas, who lives alone, receives disability living allowance and a pension, and said if he didn’t receive both benefits he couldn’t afford to pay the fee, which adds up to roughly £150 a year.
“I could pay it because I get my disability allowance,” he said. “But I don’t see why I should. What about the people that can’t afford it? I’ve used it a couple of times. I don’t feel I desperately need it but it can come in handy.
“It is worth paying to be safe but I think it’s wrong to just ask people to pay it now,’’ he said.
When the council issued letters it informed customers that they would be asked to pay for the alarms due to budget cuts.
Coun Harry Trueman, deputy leader of Sunderland City Council, said: “In the light of budget cuts from central government, the council is having to review services. A three month consultation exercise, which began in November, asked 18,000 Telecare customers for their views on paying for the service. The majority thought it was fair to have a small increase to £12.50 per month, which was implemented in April.
“This remains one of the lowest charges for Telecare services in the country. Equipment is loaned and as such is provided free of charge. The contribution is for the monitoring and response elements of the service, which remains heavily subsidised by the council. A range of payment methods are in place for vulnerable customers. People also have the option of paying from their Personal Budget.
“Where customers choose to opt out of the service, their equipment linked to the telephone will be returned to the Telecare Service. Where equipment is a permanent fixture it will remain, but disconnected.”