Telecare user numbers down by a third after price hike

Dudley’s Telecare service saw user numbers drop by a third after a hike in charges.

The service provides alarm systems in homes which are monitored around-the-clock and can send assistance by dispatching teams to help people when needed.

A meeting of Dudley Council’s Adult and Social Care Select Committee heard the number of services users had dropped by 29 per cent since April 2023.

The fall in user numbers coincides with a rise in costs from £16.30 to £21.30 per month and from October the introduction of charging for council tenants. 

The drop is blamed partly on user numbers being inflated because newer council homes had Telecare wiring built in but, after the introduction of charges for council tenants, some residents gave up the service.

At a meeting of full council earlier this month, Cllr Laura Taylor-Childs, cabinet member for housing, defended moving Telecare to the control of adult social care.

She said: “The decision was made to remove the outdated tenure-based eligibility which was left within the housing directorate and moved to need-based eligibility which would be administered by adult social care, which is precisely the right place where it should sit.

“It should go to those who need it the most, not those who can afford it.”

For the current financial year the service is predicting a shortfall in income of £108,000 for private tenants and £67,000 for council tenants, the picture is better for out-of-hours and sheltered housing users with a surplus of £35,000

However despite the drop in user numbers, Telecare turned a predicted deficit of £421,000 for the 2024/25 financial year into a forecast surplus of £19,683.

Cllr Matt Rogers, Dudley cabinet member for adult social care, said: “We made this forecast based on the number of customers we thought were eligible for the council tax reduction scheme (CTRS), which allows a 25 per cent reduction on telecare costs. 

“Following further analysis there were fewer customers in receipt of CTRS than we first thought, which reduced our overall shortfall. 

“This, combined with a target to increase the number of customers by 15 per cent, as well as plans to introduce a small price increase in October, based on inflation, and the recruitment freeze, has reduced the shortfall further and created a slight surplus.”

A nationwide switch to digital technology by phone providers has also impacted on Telecare which must change over from analogue by 2025.

The meeting heard the search for a new supplier of digital equipment stalled in December and a review is under way to restart the procurement process while staff will require intense training to be ready for the changeover.

An annual Telecare Service Association (TSA) audit for 2023/24 awarded Dudley Telecare the highest merit of ‘compliant status’, demonstrating ‘sustainable, high-quality service’.


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