Alarm appeal after fees axed
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.”