End of the line for OAP wardens

COUNCILLORS have pensioned off Doncaster's old people's warden scheme and will replace it with an electronic system.

Members of Doncaster Council's Cabinet have voted to bring in the new Telecare monitoring service - ignoring a petition signed by more than 3,600 people opposed to it.

They fear the loss of wardens will mean the end of daily face-to-face contact for many pensioners who live alone and don't have family living nearby.

About 130 OAP wardens have already taken redundancy or early retirement and the remainder will either lose their jobs or be redeployed into the new service.

Deputy Mayor Patricia Schofield told the Cabinet the new system would be more beneficial for old and vulnerable people and would be available to all, rather than people living in council accommodation.

Currently only 3,000 tenants choose to have a warden service and 79 per cent of those who filled in questionaires said they supported the Telecare idea, which will cost them 3.60 a week.

Axing the warden service will save the council 1.5 million in the first year and Coun Schofield accpted it was a "very sensitive issue".

Mayor Peter Davies pointed out the proposal had been put forward in 2008 by the previous administration "and all of a sudden certain people appeared from nowhere with a rather late protest".

He also suggested opponents had "over-egged the pudding" by bringing up the human contact aspect because wardens "could not spend the entire morning with a client, it's usually five to 10 minutes at best".

Only one member of the Cabinet, Coun Mark Thompson, said he found it difficult to support the recommendation because he had been lobbied by people in his ward.

Retired warden Maureen Benfold, from Balby, who has been a vocal critic of the new system, said: "At least half a dozen people on my estate see nobody apart from a warden.

Wardens do over and above what they have to do and helped a lot of old people during the recent bad weather.

"The people making this decision should be looking to make savings in other areas. There has to be other ways."

Vicky Ferres, chief executive of Age Concern Doncaster, questioned whether there would be enough volunteers willing to befriend lonely OAPs because of other calls on their time.

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