Vulnerable elderly across Derbyshire fear warden cuts

Residents at Glebe Court protest against planned council cuts to sheltered accommodation alarm systems and wardens. Fronted by Shirley Stewart.
Residents at Glebe Court protest against planned council cuts to sheltered accommodation alarm systems and wardens. Fronted by Shirley Stewart.

Elderly and disabled residents in sheltered housing fear their lives could be put in danger if council plans to axe their wardens go ahead.

Derbyshire County Council has announced plans to get rid of wardens and stop funding an alarm system at countywide sheltered accommodations overseen by district and borough councils and housing associations.

A total of 1,139 pensioners receive a warden service now.

Glebe Court residents at Old Whittington, Chesterfield, and Markham Court residents, at Duckmanton, have started petitions in a battle to keep their wardens.

Shirley Stewart, 62, of Glebe Court, said: “Wardens and alarms can be the difference between life and death and if anyone falls or gets stuck they could be left to die.

“Only six weeks ago one lady fell and crashed into a mirror and she was found by the warden with glass in her stomach.

“The warden managed to get to her, cleaned her up and made sure she got to hospital.

“The elderly are one of the most vulnerable so I can’t understand why they are being targeted with cuts.”

Mrs Stewart and residents received letters from the council claiming the authority has to make savings of £157million by 2018 and its website explained stopping funding for wardens and alarms by Spring 2015 could save an estimated £788,395 every year.

As part of the plans, the council stated it may be possible to introduce an alternative community alarm funded by the council for those receiving housing benefits.

Former care home manager Mrs Stewart added: “If they think they can save money by taking wardens away it is not right because residents will have to go into care and nursing homes and that will need funding.”

Mrs Stewart, who has renal difficulties and arthritis, argued wardens provide security against cold-callers and serve as a deterrent to thieves and burglars.

Rose Elmore, 67, of Markham Court, and Mrs Stewart both told how their wardens provide personal, friendly support, monitor residents’ health, and organise social events and trips.

Ms Elmore, who is recovering from a tumour which was wrapped around her spine, said: “We’re worried we will really struggle without a warden and we’re worried about what would happen if someone gets very poorly and is left alone. Our warden is worth fighting for.”

She has 279 names on her petition and Mrs Stewart has over 100 names and they will be submitting objections to the council as part of the authority’s consultation which finishes on November 18.

Councillor Clare Neill, adult social care chief, said: “We are working hard to protect services where we can and trying to find ways to mitigate against some of the cuts where possible, including using council reserves.

“However, the size and scale of the cuts we are facing means we have no choice but to reduce or cut funding in some areas.

“We understand people will feel anxious about the cuts we are being forced to propose to warden services. No decisions have yet been made on this and there is still plenty of time for people to take part in the consultation and make sure their views are heard.

“We welcome petitions and when we receive them they will be considered as part of the consultation and decision-making process.”

Those with concerns are urged to visit www.derbyshire.gov.uk/challenge. A further report will be prepared and considered by the council’s cabinet in February 2015.