Hundreds of elderly people living in sheltered housing in Sheffield 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.
Council reports say the services were previously subsidised by a Government ‘Supporting People’ grant which has now been withdrawn and funding for housing support has been substantially cut.
Brian Whitfield, aged 80, of Welwyn Court in Base Green, is one of the 29 pensioners who will go from paying nothing for the charge to £774 a year and believes the decision was ‘shocking.’
The former council worker, whose former wife Rae was a city Labour councillor, said: “The council is charging these people who can’t do a thing about it, except for relying on people like me to open their mouths, while they let millions of pounds slip by in unpaid council tax.
“They write millions of pounds off every year then come to us and start penny pinching off pensioners.
“Meanwhile the service is so bad now they should be paying us to live there. It used to be good value for money but now we get about three hours of service a day.”
The council said 85 per cent of tenants ‘agreed with the proposals’.
But reports to Coun Jayne Dunn, who agreed the decision, show that only 368 forms which were returned – about a third of tenants affected.
Grandad Brian, who is not eligible for housing benefit because he has a private pension of £170 a month, added: “Last year when we had a meeting and they told us what was going to happen we said it was attacking the most vulnerable people in Sheffield to get some money back.”
Cabinet reports said the proposed charge would make sure the sheltered housing service remained ‘viable’.
The £14.89 includes a £9.42 service charge for caretaking, grounds maintenance, management services, replacement of fixtures in communal areas plus £1.46 a week for wardens and £4.01 a week for alarms.
They also said there will be a small benefit to 263 people in sheltered housing who do not receive any allowances and currently pay £16.11 per week for the services.
Coun Dunn, cabinet member for housing, said: “We are having to charge people living in sheltered accommodation for their care alarms and warden services which were previously subsidised by Government funding.
“It’s with real regret that we’re having to do this.
“But unfortunately we have no choice as unprecedented cuts in Government funding to the council’s budget mean that we, like other local authorities, cannot afford this ourselves.
“We have carried out consultation with tenants about the charges and 85 per cent said they agreed with the proposals.
“But I understand that some people will be concerned, so we are providing advice and support to anyone that needs this.”
The decision is set to come into force tomorrow and charges will be reviewed in future.