Stephanie Linning for the MailOnline 17th Dec 2015: Pensioners who trip and fall at home will be charged £26 by their local council to come and pick them back up again
The proposal by Tendring District Council, Essex would affect some 3,000 elderly and vulnerable residents who currently pay for its Careline service, which helps users live independently at home
- Some 3,000 people use Carline service offered by Tendring Council, Essex
- £260-a-year scheme helps the elderly and vulnerable to live independently
- But now they will have to pay £26 call-out fee if they need help after a fall
- Cost-cutting move has been branded ‘disgraceful’ and ‘immoral’ by critics
Pensioners who need help getting to their feet after a fall will be charged a £26 call-out fee as part of planned cost-cutting measures.
The proposal by Tendring District Council, Essex, would affect some 3,000 elderly and vulnerable residents who currently pay for its Careline service, which helps users live independently at home.
Among the technology offered by Careline is a pendant which allows the wearer to send out a distress signal to a call centre in case of a fall or other minor emergency.
The Careline service currently costs £21.60-a-month but the council is planning to introduce an additional £25.92 charge in the event that a worker is called out to pick up someone after a fall.
Councillor Tom Howard, who outlined the plan as part of the council’s proposed budget for next year, said it would help prevent paramedics being called out unnecessarily.
But critics have branded the move ‘disgraceful’ and immoral’.
Michael Le Cornu, chairman of Tendring Pensioners’ Action group, said frontline services for the elderly and vulnerable should be safeguarded from funding cuts.
‘We have paid taxes all for lives for health services. This was supposed to be our insurance but now we are being asked to pay again.
‘What will happen if we don’t pay extra? Will we be left on the floor?’
Labour group leader Ivan Henderson criticised the plans, saying the scheme was ‘utterly wrong’.
He said: ‘It’s immoral they would even consider charging elderly people to pick them up when they have already signed up to pay at least £20 a month to be a member of Careline.
‘It’s unbelievable that an elderly person laying on the floor will have to think about whether they had signed up to pay £26 to be picked up.
‘If a Careline person does come, but it turns out that a paramedic was needed, then valuable time would have elapsed.’
Mr Howard has defended the proposal, saying Careline customers could choose to sign up to the additional service and that they will only be charged if they need to be picked up.
He said: ‘People using Careline often fall over at home and paramedics were being called out to go to the sites when a lot of the time what is needed is to lift someone up rather than treat any injury or illness.
‘So what was introduced as a pilot last year was that initially we provide a service where we go there first to assess the situation.
‘If there was no injury or medical requirement then we will provide that lifting service.
‘I believe this saved 600 visits by paramedics, which was quite a significant saving to the emergency services who would have come out when there was no need.
‘That is a service we are now providing and that charge is to pay for that service in its entirety.’