Surely one of the key characteristics of a civilised society is how we care for its most vulnerable members.
The way we treat our elderly people should be the way we wish to be treated once we reach their age.
If we don’t look after them then we can have no complaints that when our time comes the younger generation is less than sympathetic to our plight.
So it is with some concern that we report today about elderly people living in sheltered housing in Sheffield who face paying extra charges for their care alarms and warden services – some of up to almost £800 a year.
Changes agreed by Sheffield Council will impose a £14.89 weekly cost for the service on top of rent on all 1,152 tenants living in schemes across the city.
It means over-60s in sheltered accommodation who receive housing benefit will have to pay £3.75 extra a week and some who previously received a ‘transitional allowance’ will go from paying nothing to a minimum of £5.47 a week.
Sheffield Council insist that they can’t do anything about it due to ‘unprecedented cuts in Government funding to the council’s budget’.
Is that answer likely to make those affected feel better? No chance.
Those that live in sheltered housing are unable to change their means.
By enforcing a charge over a service that is vital to these residents life will become much harder.
Only the council will ever know whether money could have been found from a bit of trimming in other areas of their budget.
Any cuts in services to the elderly have to be almost as a last resort because they are a group who are unable to earn more to offset it.
Once again, though, a reduction in council services raises the question about what the state should be providing?
Starting from the premise that – on a local level at least – the council should look after its most vulnerable people it is worrying that these charges will be introduced at all.
We accept that not everything can be provided for or funded by either the local council or central government. Most people realise that they have to take personal responsibility and look after their own finances.
What people don’t enjoy though is seeing the old, the vulnerable and those who cannot alter their circumstances bearing the brunt of cuts.