Concern for 31 ‘at risk’ residents after Lifeline cash is withdrawn

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Thirty one people in Crawley have been left without an emergency alarm service because they cannot afford to pay the £200 per year fees.

A Lifeline is a personal alarm system which provides a phone-based link to carers, 24-hours-a-day, seven-days-a-week, in case a person deemed at risk needs helps.

jpco 12-6-13 Richard Symonds with his mum (Pic by Jon Rigby)

jpco 12-6-13 Richard Symonds with his mum (Pic by Jon Rigby)

In March, West Sussex County Council withdrew the funding for the Lifeline service, which had been used to subsidise the service for people in receipt of benefits.

It left 291 people in Crawley having to pay for the system - 239 opted to continue and pay the fees while 31 said they could not afford it.

Richard Symonds, whose elderly mum Gwen uses the system after she fell over and was admitted to hospital, said he was outraged that so many people deemed at risk had been left without the vital service.

He said his mum, who is 93, was paying the sum to keep the Lifeline but it has caused her financial stress.

Mr Symonds attended a meeting of Crawley Borough Council’s overview and scrutiny committee (OSC) last week to ask what steps were being taken to protect the 31 ‘at risk’ people from harm.

He said: “There should be immediate re-instatement of the service for those deemed to need it free of charge, before someone - God forbid - dies as a direct result of not having the service.

“The Lifeline is critically important - not just for her physical safety, but also her mental and emotional well-being.

“It brings her enormous re-assurance and peace of mind at many levels.

“If it didn’t, she wouldn’t now be paying £200 per year.”

The county council said it was offering a new Telecare system which would reach more people but that the borough council had so far not signed up to the scheme.

A spokesman added that, while subsidies for borough and district councils had been withdrawn, Crawley did have the option to fund the service itself or to subsidise customers affected by the withdrawal.