Monthly column: Council’s new £200 charge for vital lifeline

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Cllr Hilde Hendrickx (Liberal Democrats, Riverfield Ward) Image: Bedford Borough Liberal Democrats
Cllr Hilde Hendrickx (Liberal Democrats, Riverfield Ward) Image: Bedford Borough Liberal Democrats

I have been dismayed to hear from vulnerable local residents worried at the prospect of being charged over £200 a year for the vital emergency telecare service from the council.

Telecare is a service that helps support people to live independently – those red buttons on a necklace that someone can wear to give themselves independence at home.

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These offer people emergency help, should they need it, 24 hours a day. A vital service provided for some of the most vulnerable in our community.

Telecare is a literal lifeline for many older and disabled people in Bedford Borough.

Approximately 3,200 people use the service, and one resident wrote to me to say, ‘I live alone and therefore the Telecare service is an essential service and it also gives me great peace of mind.

Without it, if I fall at home and I’m unable to get myself up, I will be unable to raise the alarm and call for help.’

When elected in May as the new Liberal Democrat Councillor for Riverfield Ward, with an increased majority over the Conservatives, I committed to representing and fighting for residents.

I did not expect to so immediately have to be opposing another Conservative telecare-tax on the most vulnerable.

The Conservative-run Bedford Borough Council is now proposing to charge residents for this vital service. The new charge will be £4.50 per week or more than £200 a year, just to stay in your own home.

The majority of those using the service are on fixed incomes, and so the threat of a charge has brought a flood of worried messages to me and my Council colleagues.

A typical comment from a resident read: ‘The Borough Council is currently seriously considering imposing a £4.50 a week charge for the use of Telecare Services which is going to affect a good many disabled, mobility and ill health persons…. the charge needs to be scrapped or reduced.’

Another said, ‘I have been worried sick since receiving the letter and the proposed charges…. I understand that savings have to be made somewhere within the Council, but I think it is completely unacceptable that the most vulnerable in society are having to literally pay the price.’

As Liberal Democrats on the council we object to this proposal – and Liberal Democrats opposed the Mayor’s budget that was voted through by Labour and Conservative councillors that included these unacceptable proposals.

If you have worries or concerns about the proposed changes to Telecare, please let your local Councillor know or sign our petition here!

We don’t want another Conservative tax on the most vulnerable members of our community and our fight will continue.

This is a monthly guest column provided by
Cllr Hilde Hendrickx (Liberal Democrats, Riverfield Ward)
It is published unedited and does not reflect the
views of the Bedford Independent.