Anger as vulnerable residents told to pay £854 for emergency pull cords

Residents at Spring Court in Lee-on-the-Solent are angry after being told by their management company that they are each going to have to pay �800 to have new individual pull cords installed. Residents Michael Chapman and David Heather.'Picture Ian Hargreaves  (180215-1)
Residents at Spring Court in Lee-on-the-Solent are angry after being told by their management company that they are each going to have to pay �800 to have new individual pull cords installed. Residents Michael Chapman and David Heather.'Picture Ian Hargreaves (180215-1)
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ANGRY residents believe they have been ‘ripped off’ by the installation of a new pull cord system for vulnerable residents.

At Spring Court in Lee-on-the-Solent, a new pull cord system has been installed.

The system allows residents to pull a cord in their home that immediately accesses emergency help.

Residents, who have been charged £800 each, say that the work could have been done for nearly a quarter of the price – and that they should not have had to pay at all.

But Southern Housing Group, which owns the site, says the replacement system was a necessity.

Retired SEN plumber Michael Chapman, 71, lives in Spring Court.

He said: ‘I think what has happened is quite horrific.

‘This is a fully functional sheltered accommodation block – so the pull cord system is essential.

‘We received a letter telling us we would have to pay £854 each, which is unacceptable.

‘Everyone here pays a service charge and I feel as though, considering this is a service, it should be included in that.’

Michael priced up the work himself and believes it should have cost around a quarter of what the residents are paying.

He said: ‘For the equipment and the work it should not cost us much more than £200 each.

‘I feel as though we are being ripped off and just can’t buy into what Southern Housing is telling us.

‘A lot of the people here are old and fragile – so I worry that some might not know what is going on.

‘It could be very easy to take advantage of elderly people and we can’t stand by and let it happen.

‘This is a real issue that I think is being swept under the rug, so we are taking this very seriously and have approached a solicitor about it.’

Southern Housing’s customer services director Chris Harris said: ‘Due to the age of the existing warden call facility it was starting to experience defects and some of its components were becoming harder to find.

‘We decided to replace the system at Spring Court as this would be more cost effective than continuing to repair the outdated one.

‘The system allows vulnerable customers to access emergency help when we don’t have a colleague on site.

‘To make sure we get the best deal for our customers from an appropriate contractor, we go through a strict tender process.

‘Following a comprehensive review of all returned tenders we offered the contract to the company we felt was best able to balance the cost of the work with the service levels we expect for our customers.

‘We appreciate our customers’ concerns about the price of the works which is projected to be £805.44 each.

‘This cost will be recovered over 15 years as a service charge so it works out to be about £1 a week, per customer,’ Chris added.

‘For customers on lower incomes this is recoverable through housing benefit.’