Pensioner takes a stand against cuts to elderly services

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FEELING deserted by society, 92-year-old Vera Moore-Heppleston is taking a stand against cuts to care for the elderly.

The pensioner’s sole contact with the outside world is someone knocking on her door once a week and asking if she is okay.

Vera Moore-Heppleston is taking a stand against cuts to services for the elderly. Picture: Allan Hutchings (143657-993)

Vera Moore-Heppleston is taking a stand against cuts to services for the elderly. Picture: Allan Hutchings (143657-993)

But Hampshire County Council has announced it needs to cut its ‘Supporting People’ budget – which provides discretionary community support services – by £7.66m by March next year.

Now Vera, backed by older people’s groups, is calling on the authorities to not forget the elderly as sweeping cuts to public sector funding continue.

Eight years ago there was a live-in warden where Vera lives who she could call upon any time for help and support – but not any more.

Vera, who moved into White Wings House in Denmead in 2007, said: ‘’It makes it very difficult. There’s no personal touch.

‘If a light bulb went the lady would come in and change it for me, but now I would be in the dark.

‘It’s wrong. It comes down to council spending. It seems to me that the capacity to really help the elderly has gone.’

Vera, whose husband Derek died in 1996, moved to Stakes Lodge in Waterlooville in 2000 and had an on-site warden there.

Vera, who pays her own rent from savings, then moved to Denmead, where there was also an on-site warden.

But over the years the service has been gradually reduced to every morning and now the current situation, a knock on the door every week.

Vera has access to a buzzer in case of an emergency, but says it is not the same.

Vera, who worked in local government for 15 years, said: ‘This was my seventh Christmas on my own. There’s nobody to sympathise. It doesn’t seem to matter any more. Let’s face it, you are just a name in a flat. When push comes to shove, what can you do about it?

‘We are neglected. Twenty years ago in places like this you would have a person. That’s why the warden’s house was built.’

Pete Walden, chairman of Havant Over-50s forum, said: ‘I don’t agree with it. The council is going the wrong way – they are going backwards, not forwards.

‘The council should get somebody there. Everyone is going to get old.

‘The money is there. Money is being sent abroad, but they should leave it here for the elderly people.’

Winchester City Council owns White Wings House and said the level of on-site services provided 10 years ago is no longer affordable, but officials said the number of visits to residents would increase slightly under new reforms.

A statement said: ‘Resident wardens can no longer be funded since the full costs would fall on the tenants of that scheme, making the service unaffordable. Whilst there are a number of people living in sheltered housing who require support, there are increasing numbers of tenants who live independently and would not wish to pay for a full-time warden.

‘From April 2015, support funding provided by Hampshire County Council is being re-targeted towards older people who are in the greatest levels of need and Winchester City Council will no longer be in a position to provide on-site support services from that time.

‘However, the council will retain a fully functional community alarm and telecare service which will enable tenants to summon help at any time of the day or night. The service is also being re-modelled to enhance the sheltered housing management function. This will mean there will be an increased staff presence at designated sheltered housing schemes. We anticipate a sheltered housing officer will visit each scheme no less frequently than twice per week for half a day.

‘The new team will be committed to ensuring the continuing welfare of tenants who live in the council’s sheltered housing.’

The statement added: ‘The council is committed to doing all it can to ensure it continues to provide sheltered housing which offers a safe and secure environment for older people in the district, and which encourages and supports sheltered tenants to live independently for as long as they feel able.’

Havant MP David Willetts said he had been contacted by constituents in similar situations. He said: ‘It’s a real concern. Hampshire County Council is under great pressure and so are people running individual nursing home programmes.’

Authorities must prioritise

THE WOMAN in charge of services to elderly people in Hampshire said the authorities are having to prioritise services.

It comes as Hampshire County Council is having to rely more on the voluntary sector for some services and concentrate on supporting elderly people with complex nursing and care needs.

Councillor Liz Fairhurst, who also represents Leigh Park and Bedhampton, said: ‘We are having to make drastic savings.

‘We have an increasingly older population who have care needs.

‘We must meet those care needs. We have so many older people - around 1,000 more over the age of 80 every year in Hampshire.

‘We must look after those in most need first.’

Among the agreed changes include ending funding for a publicly-funded community alarm service and handyman and gardening services for the elderly going over to the voluntary sector.

Cllr Fairhurst said: ‘It would be genuinely lovely to be able to provide services for everyone but we have to concentrate on those who need it the most.

‘I find it absolutely abhorrent that older people are living in isolation.’

But she said there were a raft of services the elderly could take up to avoid being isolated.

The county council provides grants to Age Concern for people to attend social luncheon clubs.

There are currently 45 ‘village agents’ who call on elderly people in rural areas to make sure they are okay. Another 15 agents are set to be added to the scheme.

And people who receive Meals on Wheels are able to sign up to the ‘Food and Friendship’ service so they can have someone to chat to while they eat their meals.

Cllr Fairhurst said the problem of supporting the elderly was exacerbated, not only by people living longer, but by a cultural shift.

She explained: ‘It’s something that friends, family and neighbours would do. You would look after your neighbours.

‘We seem to have lost that.’

Community wardens no longer a common sight

WARDENS living at sheltered accommodation are increasingly becoming a thing of the past.

Across Portsmouth, Fareham, Gosport and Havant, the level of on-site staffing has been reduced over the last decade.

Gosport Borough Council may have to make further reductions because of cuts to the funding from Hampshire County Council, which oversees adult services.

A spokeswoman for the authority said: ‘We currently have Older Persons Support Officers on site 9am to 5pm Monday to Friday at sheltered schemes plus an out of hours response service.

‘No further changes to the scheme have taken place. However, we are in the process of reviewing the service due to the removal of Supporting People funding by Hampshire County Council. Any changes we make to the service are carried out in consultation with tenants.’

Guinness Care and Support provides most of the sheltered housing in the Havant area.

A statement said: ‘Like other care providers, we have had to make changes to how we provide some services to our older residents in sheltered housing because of changes in funding from local authorities.’

Alison Croucher, sheltered housing manager for Portsmouth City Council, said: ‘At this time Portsmouth City Council does not plan to reduce the hours of our permanent sheltered housing scheme managers.’

And a statement from Fareham Borough Council said: ‘We no longer have resident sheltered housing staff at our sheltered schemes, this has been the case for many years now as there is no requirement for them to do so particularly as tenants have access to emergency alarm and pendant should they require the latter.’