As I write this I'm listening to the BBC London 94.9 radio show with Jo Good and Paul Ross. The main news item is coverage of the Sheltered Housing Warden cuts. They are interviewing "Betty from Edgware", a sheltered housing resident. She is explaining how the wardens help her. Whilst the BBC is as ever scrupulously even handed, they clearly see this as a newsworthy story. I suggest you all tune in for a listen at News Time on the hour & half hour.
The council's line is that it isn't a cut, but a redistribution of services. As Vicki Morris of the Barnet Community Council has demonstrated, this is a lie. There is no corresponding increase in social provision elsewhere.
Vicki has sent this Email to all Conservative Councillors, in an effort to make them see sense.
If they still push this through, then you know what sort of people they all really are.
As you probably know there will be a lobby of the Barnet Cabinet meeting tomorrow evening, to protest at the proposal to cut the budget for sheltered housing wardens. This follows on from two well-supported protests organised by Barnet Community Campaign, which involved elderly sheltered housing residents themselves taking to the streets. Sometimes they protested in spite of great frailty, so determined were they to have their voices heard in public.
You probably know as well that the public consultation showed wide opposition to the proposal from the residents and their relatives and supporters.
We do not feel that the option (option 3) that the Cabinet is being encouraged to choose tomorrow night in any way meets the concerns of the residents; indeed this is acknowledged (page 12, paragraph 11.4.3) in the report to be presented to the Cabinet.
The proposal to retain alarms for all seems to be based on a simple recognition that in order for the scheme to be viable all residents must be signed up to it – it is good that this has been recognised, but this has not been as a function of the consultation process. Still in place is the proposal to cut sheltered housing wardens, and to replace them with a vaguely specified ‘floating support’ service, whose funding itself could be in doubt in the coming period. Promises to extend this service to all elderly residents who need it are similarly vague. And at the same time as the consultation document promises a ‘new specialist support service for sheltered housing tenants’ at a cost of £300,000, it explains that funding for this will be kept under review.
Two of the most offensive ideas advanced during the consultation process were that sheltered housing residents should be prepared to ‘take a hit’ to their funding or else other services for elderly residents in Barnet would be threatened, and that somehow this levelling down of provision represents increased ‘fairness’. The responses given to the question in the consultation “To what extent do you agree or disagree that support services should be provided to anyone who needs the support, whatever type of housing they happen to live in?” show that sheltered housing residents do support increased services for elderly Barnet residents not living in sheltered housing. Many of us would share that ambition. This is not the same as agreeing that the services sheltered housing residents enjoy should be reduced.
Sheltered housing is a proven and popular method of allowing elderly people to continue to live independent lives; perhaps the most chilling aspect of the proposals going to the Cabinet is the idea that our ambition for the services we provide to vulnerable elderly residents increasingly be limited to reacting to emergencies. The warden service helps to prevent dangerous situations occurring in the first place.
The warden service has not outlived its usefulness, albeit councils around the country have seen a way to alleviate their financial difficulties by attacking it. And it is not too late for you to look again at the proposals and think about whether there might not be better places to make savings in the council’s budget. At this 11th hour, we urge you to do that.
Barnet Community Campaign