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Fear raised lifeline alarm system no longer affordable

Gerwyn Evans with son Jacob Williams

FIFTY people have stopped using an emergency alarm system since the price increased at the start of this month to more than £100 a year. 

The Lifeline alarm system is used by residents in Torfaen – mostly those who are elderly or disabled – to summon help should they fall or get into difficulty at home.  

But from April 1 the borough council said the annual cost for the alarm system, used by around 1,600 people, would rise from £65 a year to £109.21. 

Independent councillor for Blaenavon Janet Jones said she feared some who need the alarm will consider it no longer affordable. 

Cllr Janet Jones

She said: “Residents who rely on this facility are facing decisions on whether they can afford the increase. Many are choosing to cancel the lifeline provision, and this could have disastrous consequences.” 

She said the council was supposed to be encouraging people to remain independent and stay in their own homes and the rise in the cost of the alarms, which can be worn as a pendant around someone’s neck of on their wrist, was counterproductive. 

At April’s full council meeting she asked what support the council could offer to help people with the price rise. 

Last week Gerwyn Evans, of Abersychan, told the Local Democracy Reporting Service how his 23-year-old son, Jacob Williams, who can suffer epileptic fits, has an alarm attached to his bed. 

It alerts Mr Evans should his son suffer a fit in the night. 

Cllr David Daniels, the cabinet member for social care, said he was committed to monitoring the numbers using the system and the reasons as to why any have stopped, and confirmed the total had already reduced by 50. 

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Cllr David Daniels

“The number ceasing to use it is 50, and our team will attempt to gain an insight and better understanding of the reasons,” the Labour councillor said.

He said the council may be able to offer advice on financial assistance and help people access it, and added the cost of the alarm system can be spread out over 12 months at no additional charge. 

But he defended the increase as he said the cost of running the service had risen while the digital switchover for telephone systems also meant additional costs such as having to use phones fitted with SIM cards, at an estimated total cost of £2,300 a month. 

Digital phones however will work during power cuts, which the council said meant the service is also improving.

As a result of a new contract the total cost of the service to the council, which continues to subsidies, has also increased from £49,000 to £60,000. 

The monthly charge in Torfaen is £9.11. The highest charge for a similar service in Wales is £24.90 a month, with other authorities also having reviewed their charges. 

The councillor said the cost of subsequent calls, which are triggered after someone has raised the alarm, has also risen to £1.50 a time and the number of such calls has increased to more than 8,600 last year with ambulance delays one of the reasons behind the increase.