Outrage over charges to vulnerable for Lifeline alarm system

Vulnerable Redbridge residents who use a free personal alarm system to get help if they fall could have to start paying hundreds of pounds a year from this August.

Last week, the council’s cabinet agreed to charge a flat rate of £4.50 a week for its Lifeline service from August 1, more than double the £2.17 weekly fee paid now by many users. 

Residents who get the service free because they receive benefits, around 30 per cent of users, will have to complete a financial assessment to see if they can pay “some or all” of the fee.

One carer, who asked to remain anonymous, said it was an “absolute outrage” to charge more than £200 a year and warned it could lead some to give up their Lifeline, putting them at risk.

They added that the financial assessment users were expected to fill out was “thirty pages long” and would be difficult for many to complete.

At an overview scrutiny meeting on April 19, Cllr Mark Santos said the changes would fund improvements to the service and make the pay structure “fairer and more consistent”.

He said: “This will generate some extra income and not only allow for this service to ‘wash its own face’ but also allow us to invest in improvements that will benefit the lives of some of the most vulnerable residents.

“For the rest of the adult care services, the contribution people make is decided through a financial assessment and this is what’s proposed here.

“I have some concern that some people may choose not to continue with the service and for those individuals we will undertake a risk assessment and act accordingly.

“Sometimes people find (assessments) tricky to complete and so what we will do is ensure people are supported to be able to complete it.”

Cllr Santos explained that residents who receive the service through the council currently pay £4.73 a week, compared to those who get the same service through contractor Millbrook Healthcare, who pay only £2.17 a week.

He added that the additional money will be used partly to update that service to a new digital system, as the current analogue system will “become obsolete” by around 2025.

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Victoria Munro

Local Democracy Reporter