ELDERLY residents living in sheltered housing in Exeter are facing a huge hike in charges – and a reduction in the care they receive.
There is wide-spread anger at the changes brought in by Guinness Care and Support to its sheltered housing schemes in Exeter – but it is understood that cuts in government funding are partly to blame.
But those living at Good Shepherd Drive scheme – who are facing a near 30 per cent increase in the service charge from last year – have en-listed the help of Exeter MP Ben Bradshaw who has attended a meeting to hear their concerns.
Their fears have been heightened by recent events at another Guinness property Gainsborough House where resident Carol Kelly was found dead after being left in her flat for what neighbours believe was several days.
Speaking on behalf of the Good Shepherd Drive residents Margaret Gardner, said they were all angry at the changes which have come alongside a large decline in the care and support they are offered.
She said: “There is a huge increase in service charges but a major fall in care that we receive. That is what everyone is angry about. There used to be a warden on site 24 hours a day. There is now someone here for just 12 hours a week. Despite this our service charge is going up by 28 per cent this year.
“People generally feel there is not enough cover. We are supposed to be living in sheltered housing but the care is not there anymore. We are being asked to pay more for less.”
She said the service charge cost per tenant per month had risen from £61.28 to £79.20. Those tenants paying rent have also seen a big increase.
“People feel like we are left without anybody,” added Miss Gardner. “We are angry. The employee on site is only here 12 hours a week and does not do any support work.
“If you want support or even if you use the pull cord you are charged. That is all new this year.
“Guinness seem to be blaming it on the Government cutting their money. There is real anger and frustration. One lady has been here 20 years and when she first came the support was here when we did not need it but now she is in her 80s and that support is not here.
“You come here for the support to help you as you get older that is now not here.
“As far as the residents are concerned the blame is all on Guinness. They should change their name to remove care and support from their title.”
There are 40 flats in the Good Shepherd Drive scheme.
“The resident’s needs do vary but we have got people here in their 80s and 90s,” Miss Gardner added. “Who is to say what happened to that poor lady at Gainsborough House couldn’t happen here. We try to look out for each other as much as we can but we do not seen everyone every day.”
A spokesperson for Guinness Care and Support said they were doing all they could to keep costs to a minimum and offer a good service.
They said: “We meet with residents each year to consult on service charges.
“The increase in costs at Good Shepherd Drive relates mainly to maintenance and improvement works to residents’ homes carried out over the last year.
“Changes in how Supporting People funding is allocated means residents are now being offered individual support packages according to their needs and the level of contact they wish to receive, instead of an onsite warden service.
“However, following consultation with residents at Good Shepherd Drive we are continuing to visit the scheme on a regular basis each week, with the cost of this included in residents’ service charges.
“We understand these are difficult financial times for our residents and we strive to keep costs to a minimum while continuing to deliver a good service.”
Mr Bradshaw said it was clear evidence that Government cuts were being felt by the most vulnerable members of society.
He said: “I attended a meeting and it was clear the residents were very unhappy as their service charge had increased by nearly 30 per while there was a deterioration in level of support they were receiving.
“I have written to Guinness asking for an explanation. They say one of the reasons they are having to make changes in cuts is because of a reduction in the funding they receive from the county council, who commission the services. The council in turn is having their funding slashed by Government.
“This is a knock-on effect and the consequences are now being felt by some of our most vulnerable and elderly people.”