Sheltered Housing – Is there a right time to refuse to pay?
As a Councillor I hold a weekly advice surgery at the Bellinge Community House where I’m available for residents in the Billing Ward to come and discuss any issues they may have and how they might be resolved.
I would never claim to be able to find a solution to all of the problems and have on occasions had to tell residents that their problems wouldn’t be sorted out until they themselves took action.
An example was a resident who demanded a larger home but had considerable rent arrears who had to be told would need to pay them off before they would even be considered for a move.
It is always difficult to give some people the reality and truth rather than taking the easy option of saying you’ll find a solution but sometimes a few home truths are necessary and better that than making promises that cannot be kept and worse still that you have no intention of keeping.
In most cases where services aren’t being delivered to the standard people expect or worse not being delivered at all residents argue that they “are paying for the services” so why aren’t they getting what they pay for?
Which brings me to an issue that was raised with me at last Wednesday’s surgery.
The issue was around the failing Sheltered Housing service in Bellinge and Ecton Brook where I was given the following two examples,
A resident in one of the Ecton Brook sheltered housing complexes hadn’t had a visit from a ‘Warden’ for 6 weeks which was a problem for two reasons.
Firstly she suspected that one of her carers (who has subsequently been dismissed) was helping themselves and because a Warden hadn’t visited the resident had no-one to voice her concerns too making her feel very vulnerable.
Secondly the Warden tests the ‘call line’, which incidentally when the residents carer realised that the warden hadn’t been visiting took the initiative to test the call line herself, only to be told that it wasn’t her job by the call line centre?
The second example was that a resident didn’t have her weekly 1 hour visit because the warden was on holiday.
The resident received no phone call or contact to tell her the warden wouldn’t be attending or that no warden would be attending.
The problem with wardens not attending and testing the call lines is it is possible that vulnerable residents could in the event of them having an accident or being ill been left stranded for days and weeks?
In fact the Northampton Conservatives policy is nothing short of being institutionalised neglect of our elderly and vulnerable residents in Sheltered Housing.
I have no doubt that the Wardens themselves are unhappy that because of the cuts the Council has made in staffing levels they at not being able to carry out their roles in the way that they would want to.
What dismayed, if that’s the right word, perhaps a better one would be angered the sheltered housing residents who are having to suffer the lack of services is that they are expected to pay £12.50 a week for the service.
Worse still they told me that if they are a week late paying their rent and/or warden charge they receive an almost instantaneous ‘red demand letter’.
I am a great a supporter of a policy that allows the elderly to live Independently for as long as they possibly can, but the Northampton Conservatives policy has moved from one of ‘Independent Living’ to one of ‘Isolation and Neglect’ of our Sheltered Housing.
So, “Is there ever a right time to refuse to pay”?
I believe there is.
If I went into a restaurant or shop and didn’t get the service or goods I wanted I would refuse to pay and go somewhere else where I would get what I am entitled to expect for my money.
Sheltered Housing residents in Northampton don’t have a choice to go to another provider so shouldn’t in my view pay if the service isn’t being delivered or is sub-standard.
It’ll no doubt bring disapprobation down on my head for saying so but I would stand firmly alongside and support any Sheltered Housing residents who refused to pay if the warden didn’t turn up,
and to put it in South Yorkshire terms,
“Bugger the consequences”