Alarm ap­peal af­ter fees axed

Airdrie & Coatbridge Advertiser - - Fitness - Ju­dith Ton­ner

Pre­vi­ous users of North La­nark­shire’s com­mu­nity alarm ser­vice are be­ing asked to con­tact the lo­cal author­ity if they would like to have it re­in­stated now that charges have been re­moved.

An un­pop­u­lar £5 per week fee for the alert sys­tem, used by older and dis­abled peo­ple, was in­tro­duced last Au­gust but then quickly scrapped in a coun­cil bud­get U-turn in Fe­bru­ary.

The alarm ser­vice had 11,000 users in July 2016 – but many sub­se­quently can­celled when the new cost, then amount­ing to £ 260 per year, was in­tro­duced.

North La­nark­shire of­fi­cials say there has been a “sig­nif­i­cant in­crease” in use of the alarm ser­vice since the charge was scrapped, with the main users be­ing “vul­ner­a­ble peo­ple liv­ing at home or be­ing dis­charged from hospi­tal”.

They have now set up a ded­i­cated phone line for pre­vi­ous users who would like to have the free sys­tem re­in­stated – al­low­ing them to call emer­gency as­sis­tance to their homes via a spe­cial pen­dant or alarm unit.

So­cial work vice- con­vener Coun­cil­lor Gil­lian Fan­nan said: “We de­cided to make sure that com­mu­nity alarms were free of charge, even though coun­cil ser­vices are un­der se­vere fi­nan­cial pres­sure.

“It’s im­por­tant that in­di­vid­u­als or fam­i­lies who pre­vi­ously used this ser­vice get in touch if they feel they would ben­e­fit from the in­stal­la­tion of an alarm.

“Many peo­ple who left the ser­vice have al­ready come back to us, but I am ask­ing those who haven’t yet done so to con­tact us.”

The ded­i­cated phone num­ber is 01698 403278 and can be reached from 8.45am to 4.45pm Mon­day to Thurs­day, and 8.45am to 4.15pm on Fridays.

Com­mu­nity alarm charges were in­tro­duced 11 months ago, but were then sus­pended in De­cem­ber for the author­ity’s 1400 shel­tered hous­ing ten­ants – in­clud­ing those at its 17 com­plexes in Mon­k­lands – ahead of the planned in­tro­duc­tion of im­proved smart tech­nol­ogy.

Fig­ures from 29 of the coun­try’s other 31 coun­cils showed that the £5 weekly fee was one of the high­est in Scot­land, with only two author­i­ties hav­ing a greater weekly or equiv­a­lent charge; just two were pro­vid­ing the ser­vice free of charge.

The charge was then axed in North La­nark­shire’s 2017-2018 bud­get, with coun­cil leader Jim Logue said: “I’m big enough to stand up and say, ‘we didn’t get this right’ – it’s based on rep­re­sen­ta­tions that have been made to elected mem­bers.”

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