Residents living in sheltered accommodation have hit out at their housing provider’s decision to remove ‘a lifeline relied on by many’ from its properties.
The Guinness Partnership is removing all safety alarm systems, which allow residents to pull a cord if they are distressed or in need of help, across the homes it manages.
The company said the current systems were in need of updating, but that it would only remove the existing systems – not install new ones. If residents want an alarm system they will have to pay for the service of a separate provider, something which Cheryl Anderson of Dryden Close, Waterlooville, is angry about.
The 68-year-old former Women’s Royal Air Force servicewoman said: ‘Residents weren’t consulted about this decision, just told about it at a standard meeting.
‘We believe Guinness is responsible for replacing the systems. They were installed at the time the flats and bungalows here were constructed.
‘I’ve been advised by a solicitor this means the systems are part of the buildings’ fixtures and fittings.
‘Elderly people use the system when they’re in desperate need of help, they can’t afford new ones.
‘Every time they’re pulled, the cords alert a company called Centra, which lets the relevant elderly living advisor know you need help, or can get you an ambulance.
‘Guinness is now telling me my bungalow isn’t sheltered housing, even though it’s what my tenancy states.
‘We’re all very worried about the change.’
As well as the pull cords, wristbands which are connected to the system are available, which Cheryl said gave many people a sense of security.
The residents have the support of Hampshire county councillor Ann Briggs, who said: ‘I agree the systems are outdated, but I fully believe it’s down to Guinness to put new ones in place for those who need them.
‘The company is taking away a lifeline relied on by many who are vulnerable.
‘People went into these homes because of the word ‘‘sheltered’’ and Guinness is trying to take that away from residents.
‘We now have to wait for the ruling of the housing ombudsman.’
A spokeswoman for The Guinness Partnership said: ‘Our current community alarm offer is now outdated.
‘With advanced technology there are better options on the market that can cater for individual needs – enabling choice around security and reassurance.
‘Many customers have said they do not need an alarm system, so we have decided not to replace the system across our homes but to decommission it.
‘This allows people the choice of a new alarm provider if that is what they want.
‘We have held consultation meetings at all our schemes and visited those customers who requested it individually.
‘Where they would like an alternative we’re making sure the new arrangement is set up and working before we decommission or remove their existing unit.
‘If any of our customers have any concerns, then please get in contact with us.’
When questioned about the alarm systems, Guinness also said they were not part of the fixtures and fittings, and did not form part of any Hampshire resident’s tenancy agreement.