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A 90-year-old woman has blasted Cheshire East Council proposals to charge over 85s for a lifeline telecare alarm service which is currently free, writes Belinda Ryan.

Cheshire East is consulting with residents on proposals to introduce a £5 a week charge for the telecare service which, at present, is free to residents aged 85 and over if they live alone.

The local authority insists that, if the proposal goes ahead, ‘people who cannot afford to pay this charge will continue to receive the service for free, subject to a financial assessment process’.

But a 90-year-old Cheshire East woman told the Local Democracy Reporting Service that some of her friends had already said they will get rid of telecare rather than pay £20 a month or have to complete a financial assessment.

“It’s a godsend for me,” said the woman, who asked not to be named. “I live alone and my family aren’t around here.

“A lot of us live alone with no relatives nearby. Is this the way to treat elderly people in the area?”

She said she was worried about getting rid of telecare and hadn’t yet made up her mind what to do if the charges were introduced but added: “One or two of my friends have said they’re not happy and they’ll be returning them [the alarms].”

Telecare consists of a range of devices such as a pendant alarm which is triggered when someone needs help.

A call centre responds and a mobile response service can visit someone’s home if they need help if they have had a fall, for example.

People below the age of 85 already pay £5 a week for the service.

The Conservatives have been leafleting people in parts of Cheshire East opposing the introduction of the charge and urging them to make their views known through the consultation, which ends on Thursday June 22.

But Labour says this proposal makes the system fairer.

Cheshire East leader Sam Corcoran (Lab) told the Local Democracy Reporting Service: “I believe that Cheshire East Council should direct its resources to help those most in need.

“There is a 12 year gap in life expectancy between wealthy and deprived areas of the borough – that is a shocking statistic that needs to be addressed.

“The current policy exacerbates health inequalities in the borough because more people can access the free telecare in wealthier areas of the borough where life expectancy is higher.

“Given the financial constraints on the council, rather than targeting resources simply at those aged over 85, the resources should be targeted at those who need help the most.

“Is it fair that a wealthy 86-year-old receives free telecare when a less well-off 67-year-old in greater need has to pay?”

He added: “The proposed changes will bring us more into line with other local authorities – I am not aware of any other local authorities who have the same policy that Cheshire East Council introduced a few years ago of free telecare for those aged over 85.

“Finally, I would like to reassure all residents that the new scheme will ensure that anybody needing telecare who cannot afford to pay will receive free telecare.”

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