Anger at removal of sheltered housing wardens

The sheltered housing complex in Hillary Close, Stamford. Photo: MSMP100411-003am EMN-141004-110157001
The sheltered housing complex in Hillary Close, Stamford. Photo: MSMP100411-003am EMN-141004-110157001
Have your say

Humanity and dignity have been taken away from council care services, according to the elderly and disabled people who use them.

A group of sheltered housing residents have condemned Lincolnshire County Council’s new wellbeing service and called for the reinstatement of the warden scheme, which ended on April 1.

Speaking to the Mercury this week, the residents of complexes around Stamford said the changes to the system had created fear among the town’s elderly and disabled.

We have agreed to report their comments anonymously. One woman who lives in the Essex Road housing complex said: “What everyone is concerned about is that the care element has gone. Now, we are being offered support. There is no care. And there was nothing seamless about the transition. It is chaos. It really is a shocking situation.”

The wellbeing service combines all aspects of county council care and support for adults under one provider. Previously, the services were delivered under by several organisations. In Stamford, Bourne and the Deepings, for example, the housing warden scheme had been run by South Kesteven District Council for several decades. But under the new scheme, warden provision has been replaced by a system of telephone and alarm calls to a central hub.

Even assessments for eligibility to the new scheme have been carried out over the phone.

The Essex Road resident said: “Who is doing the assessment? Surely a doctor would be in a far better position, rather than someone over the other end of a telephone with a script? There is no dignity or humanity. That’s what we are asking for. You can’t treat people as if you are a call service. The proper assessment needs to be done in a truthful way. Not just ticking boxes.”

Relatives of those in their 90s or above have questioned how someone in a distant call centre can answer immediate but non-emergency concerns.

The daughter of an Essex Road resident said: “My mum is 101. She’s not sleeping. Her neighbour keeps banging on her door. Before she would pull the cord and a warden would come and help her but now there is no-one. She will phone me up but my husband has Alzheimer’s, so who do I choose?”

The woman said her mother chose Essex Road because she wanted to stay in her own house, rather than live in a care home. She added: “She got on well with the wardens. They used to pop their head in and say hello. It’s a face they want to see, not a voice on the end of a phone.”

A Hilary Close resident praised the wardens, adding: “We are all missing the wardens and we should have them available. I was in hospital last March. The wardens were brilliant with me. At first they would come in every day. I didn’t ask for it or pay for it. After a while they spread it out until I was back to what I normally am.

“I couldn’t have asked for any more help than what they did. That’s what most people want. I had no-one else.”

The residents gave examples of recent problems that could have been easily solved with the help of a warden. One Essex Road resident said a 94-year-old woman pulled her cord after falling over in her bathroom. She claimed it then took a team 45 minutes to come from Grantham just to put her back into bed.

Another Essex Road resident claimed police had to be called to help a blind woman who got stuck in a lift because council workers took almost an hour to arrive.

And an Emlyns Street resident said people aged 80 and above had been carrying buckets of water from the communal kitchen to help flush a broken toilet.

She added: “I had a lot of help from wardens. I can’t speak too highly of them. But what are we going to do now?”

Residents were also angry about the way the transition was handled. One Essex Road resident, who has to use a wheelchair, said she did not feel comfortable being assessed for care over the phone. She added: “If wellbeing rang me and asked if I could wash myself, I would have to tell them private details and my dignity would have gone. I am desperate for an assessor to see me. I want them to see the situation I am in.”

Each resident said if they had been consulted before the changes came in, problems could have been identified before it was too late. And all agreed that while round-the-clock cover was asking a lot, a warden service was required between 8pm and 8am when people were most vulnerable.

The residents hope to hold a meeting with county council representatives to discuss their concerns further.