Fury at community alarm charge rise

Jim Fraser and his 93 year old mum Madge at her home in Penicuik.
Jim Fraser and his 93 year old mum Madge at her home in Penicuik.

A Penicuik man whose mother depends on the Telecare support service has hit out at Midlothian Council for raising the charge by 46 per cent.

Telecare – sometimes called community alarms or warden call systems – uses electronic equipment and sensors around the home to detect risks like fires, floods or falls. If a risk is detected, an alert will be sent to a monitoring centre, which then notifies a named contact.

It is currently used by between 1700 and 1800 residents across Midlothian.

Jim Fraser (67), whose 93-year-old mother Madge lives alone and suffers from dementia, is angry that the charge rose last year from £26.65 per quarter to £39 – a 46 per cent increase.

Midlothian Council has defended the increased charge, which is set to rise again in April, claiming it is in line with other local authorities.

Jim is now considering cancelling. He said: “My mum has had this service for a few years. I noticed in July we got a letter to say it had gone up with no explanation at all, so I was a bit miffed.

“I’m a retired purchasing manager and if I had made a decision like that I would have gotten my books. To go from £26.65 to £39 is hardly in line with inflation as well.

“This is an enormous increase imposed on the most vulnerable people in our community. If only their pensions would rise at the same rate!

“My daughter lives 100 yards along the road and carers come in four times a day but this gives us extra peace of mind.”

Although he admitted he could afford the price rise, Jim was still angry. He added: “It’s the principle of the matter.

“Before, I used to be quite concerned if she got up and walked about, but with this you can tell what happened. Now she is bed ridden so it’s only good for the fire alarm.

“Is it worth £180 a year just to have a fire alarm connected?”

Defending the increased Telecare charge, council leader Cath Johnstone (SNP), the cabinet member for health and social care, insisted that the price in Midlothian is similar to elsewhere in Scotland.

She said: “We increased the Telecare charge to £3 a week back in April 2016 after consulting with service users.

“We realise any increase in charges is challenging for those facing them.

“However, the charge, which will go up to £3.15 per week from April 2017, is still average compared with other local authorities.

“The charges contribute to the full round-the-clock response service that is also available through Telecare.

“Before any change is implemented we will make sure people affected are fully aware of the proposals and have time before they are applied.”

Charging for Telecare was first introduced in 2012 in Midlothian.