Cumbria council defends its Careline funding axe

Cumbria County Council has defended its decision to axe funding for community alarm systems provided by social landlords such as Riverside in Carlisle.

The housing association has told 1,100 of its tenants in the city who get free use of the Careline system that they will have to pay a weekly charge of £6.25 if they want to continue using it.

Considered a lifeline by the vulnerable people who use it, Careline works by giving tenants 24-hour access to professional emergency help.

Riverside says it will have to charge because the council has axed £3m funding for such services in Cumbria over the next three years.

But county council officials said that they have found a big variation in the cost of the community alarm systems being run by social landlords across the county.

A Cumbria wide review of all the schemes found that weekly charges ranged from 89p to more than £7.00.

A spokesman said: “It is our responsibility to ensure that we commission services that are fit for purpose, achieve value for money, that are of a good standard and are affordable for people who have a support need.”

As a result of the review, the authority is standardising the service while trying to meet the needs of those people most in need, he said.

Funding for the ‘Supporting People’ alarm schemes needs to but cut by £744,000 over the next 18 months. But the county council is investing £1m in “telecare services,” an alarm linked to a resident’s telephone which can also act as a smoke alarm, carbon monoxide detector, and movement detector, he said.

Every tenant who gets free Careline services is being reassessed. Some may be eligible for support through adult social care and some will still be eligible for a subsidy through Supporting People funding.

Individuals can also get financial advice through a service delivered by Age UK to maximise their income to help self fund alarm services, for example those in receipt of attendance allowance.

The spokesperson added: “Cumbria County Council is committed to providing care services which enable people to stay in their homes for as long as possible.

“Whilst Supporting People funding is reducing, people may be eligible for support through other avenues of adult social care. We are investing £1m in Telecare services this year which underlines our commitment to these alternative services. “

The Support People Budget for Cumbria is being cut from £10 million to £7 million over the next three years.

Eden Housing is also introducing charges for around 250 tenants who use a community alarm. The charge will range from £2.50 to £3.50 per week.