Anger over wardens cuts

5:36pm Tuesday 7th January 2014

OLD people will end up as badly off as they were in the dark days of Dickens if they lose the wardens who are their lifeline, says the daughter of an elderly woman who lives in sheltered housing.

Megan Staight is deeply concerned about the future of her mother’s care following proposed cuts which could have a dramatic impact on the warden service in Worcester. Her mother, 85-year-old Grace Thomas, has lived in sheltered housing in Chelmsford Court, Ronkswood managed by Worcester Community Housing (WCH) for the last nine months.

The cuts, still subject to a consultation which ends on Tuesday, January 21, could see WCH, which manages the wardens, lose its entire £630,000 grant. The cash is spent on wardens, calls, wellbeing checks and advice for around 1,505 tenants deemed vulnerable. The cuts are the result of a proposal by Worcestershire County Council to slash investment in supporting people from £15 million to £6.5 million, part of £98 million of cuts that must be made by 2017.

Mrs Staight hit out at the cuts today, the day of a series of consultation meetings organised by WCH and Worcestershire County Council at three venues across the city – Bilford Court, Chelmsford Court and Himbleton House. A further meeting is taking place tomorrow at the Hive between 10.30am and 12.30pm.

Mrs Staight of Canterbury Road, Ronkswood, said: “They ought to be increasing the funding, not decreasing it. The people in Chelmsford Court are very frail and a lot of them have illnesses. “I am able to care for my mum but a lot of the other people have to rely on the wardens and it looks like the wardens are to bear the brunt of the cuts. “They have to rely on emergency pull cords which I don’t think is satisfactory anyway. This Government is cutting more and more.

“It’s as if we’re going back to Dickensian days. Soon it will be the workhouse again. “I feel the older people are being treated as a nuisance, like they’re not worth looking after. I don’t rely entirely on the wardens but there are others who don’t have family in this area.

“They are totally on their own with just the wardens to help them. I’m suffering from rheumatoid arthritis and I can’t be there as much as I would like to be and my husband has asbestos-related long problems. My mum is frightened. My mum is a vulnerable woman. They are all vulnerable there. There are a couple of people there aged in their 90s.”

Mrs Thomas is on the warden scheme and they call in on her every day in the morning and, if Mrs Staight requests it, they can also call on her mum in the evening. Mrs Staight said her mum, who needs a walking aid to get about, had already fallen several times and was found on the floor by her carer and one of the wardens.

Concerns have also been raised by the champions of older people like Worcestershire Pensioners Action Group about the impact of such cuts, particularly in the wake of the death of William Collins, aged in his 80s, who was found dead at Lincoln Green in Worcester on August 23 last year. Some residents, judging from the smell and the number of flies, suggested he could have been dead for up to a month before his body was found and he was so badly decomposed he had to be identified by DNA. Ron Chambers and Brian Hunt of the Worcestershire Pensioners Action Group say this is further evidence of the importance of the wardens.

Helen Scarrett, housing and customer services director at WCH, said: “The proposed cuts will obviously have an impact on our much-valued services for older people, which is why we are encouraging all our customers to go along to the county council organised consultation sessions and make their views known.

“We are teaming up with other service providers in the county to have our say and to do all we can to influence how key services for older and vulnerable people will be funded in the future”

£29 budget cuts and council tax soars 1.9% page 5

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