World War Two vet great-grandparents forced to pay for access to emergency pull cord
A World War Two veteran and his wife in sheltered accommodation are being forced to PAY to have access to an emergency cord that could save their lives.
Roger and Barbara Turner, both in their 90s, have lived in their sheltered housing flat in Worcester for 30 years and the cost has always been included in their rent.
But accommodation managers Fortis Living are threatening to cut the potentially life-saving service, saying the great-grandparents must now pay £2.71 a week for the privilege, leading their furious family to hit back at “a tax on the vulnerable”.
Roger, 93, who served in the Royal Air Force for five years, said: “This is a necessity and I’m terrified of what might happen if we don’t have access to the cord.
“If we both took a fall, it could be 24 hours before anyone found us – it’s a matter of life and death.”
Roger is partially sighted and suffers from mobility problems and Barbara, 90, has suffered two strokes, walks with a stick, is deaf and has arthritis in her hands.
Both have fallen in their flat and had to pull the cord multiple times and they fear that they will have
The couple, who have been married for 69 years, receive the state pension and say they will have to start making cut backs to afford the £140.92 a year they will have to pay.
Roger said: “We normally go into town twice a week to do our shopping and pick up the things we need.
“We are just too frail to take the bus so we take a taxi but we won’t be able to afford that now.
“We might just be able to manage going once a week and that will have to be enough.”
The alarm cord connects to a central hub in Malvern and once pulled someone is dispatched to respond.
Wardens do not live on site but call once a day to check on the welfare of residents.
Fortis Living said in their letter dated April 1 that the alarm charge was not covered by housing benefit so the couple needed to make regular payments to cover the cost.
A spokesperson said that Worcestershire County Council used to fund the service but cuts to their budget mean they will no longer pay for it.
Roger said he has had to turn to his local church for help to pay for the first few months for fear of the cord being cut.
The grandfather-to-seven and great-grandfather-to-eight served in the Royal Air Force in North Africa for five years between 1940 and 1945 and then returned to Worcester after being demobbed.
He was an engineer for British company Metalbox in his hometown as well as also working for them overseas in what was then Rhodesia and Nigeria.
Barbara looked after their three daughters, Pauline Kuipers, 59, and Julia Hagelthorn, 62, who both live in Portugal, and Carol who died recently.
Roger said: “The whole situation is outrageous.
“The letter arrived with about a month’s warning saying we would just have to start paying from April 1st.
“It said we could pay weekly, monthly, or even annually but that doesn’t really help us if we’ve not got the money to spare.
“We’re speaking out on behalf of all the residents of Cherwell Close – they’re all feeling exactly the same as us.
“We’re all in the same boat. Everyone is suffering because of it. There are 51 flats here.
“A lot of them won’t know what to do or who to contact.
“To think we have been here all these years and this happens all of a sudden. It’s a case of pay or get out.
“It’s been incredibly stressful and it’s really affecting us.
“When I fell last month it was 20 minutes before I could even get up to reach the cord. If I’d been left lying there without it who know what would have happened?”
Barbara spoke to their daughters and realised how the charges would affect them.
She said: “We have been here all this time – it is our home and we manage our money so we can live here safely.
“Why, all of a sudden, do we have to pay?”
Their daughters, Pauline Kuipers and Julia Hagelthorn, who are both visiting are concerned about the charges and are doing what they can to help while they are here.
Pauline said: “I’m pretty horrified. It is very important they have the cord. Dad can’t get up if he falls over.”
Peter Gill, assistant director of care and customer services at Fortis Living, said: “We appreciate this is a difficult situation for Mr and Mrs Turner and our supported housing team will be contacting them to see if they can assist.
“This situation has occurred due to cuts to Worcestershire County Council’s budget, as they funded the alarm service until April 2014.
“Worcester Community Housing pledged to pay the charge for 12 months after to reduce the impact on tenants and this has come to an end in April this year.
“We have kept the charge as low as possible at £2.50 per week as many competitors charge.”