CHANGES to the council’s Lifeline warden service will save the authority £300,000 but there are concerns that vulnerable people will lose out.
Under the proposed plans, staff will continue to provide round-the-clock cover for people who have signed up to the Lifeline service which provides users a button to call for a warden in an emergency.
But Lifeline users will no longer receive monthly visits from the wardens to check that the equipment is working because an update in the technology means that the checks can be done remotely.
Lauraine Walker, head of business management at the council, stressed these proposed changes would not affect the service provided in sheltered accommodation which would remain the same.
But hospital campaigner Mick Pilling believes that it will have a negative impact on elderly service users.
His home is fitted with a Lifeline system and he launched a petition opposing the changes when the plans were first announced last year.
Mr Pilling told the Free Press: “I firmly and personally believe that there should be a check carried out once a month by person and that the warden service should visit once a month.
“I would advise that people check their equipment once a week for their own piece of mind because this nothing more than a cost-cutting exercise.
“They say that the system can check itself but I don’t feel that this is the correct way to go and something is going to have to be done about it to make sure that people are not left vulnerable and without anyone ever visiting them.”
The proposed changes come after a year-long review of the service.
Staff have been consulted on the proposals, which would include a staffing restructure and it is proposed that the night-time standby cover is replaced by a fully-staffed awake service between 10pm and 6am, seven days a week.
While the proposals will see a reduction in staff, there are a number of vacancies which remove the shortfall and minimise the impact of potential redundancies.
Lauraine Walker of the council said: “We need to ensure that the services the council offer are fit for the future, are what people want, that the meet people’s needs and that we have the right staff available at the right times to deliver the service.
“People are looking for value for money and will have the opportunity to take their allocation as a cash budget and go elsewhere if we are not offering the services they want at competitive rates.
“These proposals will result in much-needed savings for the council with no reduction of service levels for the customers.
“In fact, several service improvements are proposed including more accurate positioning of staffing for responses during the day, an improved night-time response service and an equipment replacement programme to provide modern and reliable equipment.
“Both the resident/site wardens and community response services deliver a preventative service and provide much-needed support to vulnerable people helping them to stay independent.
“The services can both be improved and generate savings while needing to demonstrate value for money, this is in context of preventing greater costs elsewhere for residential, day care and hospital admissions.
“The feedback we have had from some users where the equipment check visits have stopped has been generally positive.
“Some have told us they miss the social aspect of the visit of the wardens and we have referred them to Age UK who offer a befriending service.
“Customers should not notice a difference to the service and overall these proposals should have a positive impact.”