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Residents meet councillors to raise concern over Ealing Council scraping of in-house Careline service

Following the decision by Ealing Council over the way it has cancelled Careline, its in-house 24-hour alarm service used by thousands of elderly, disabled and vulnerable residents across the borough, users of the service have held a meeting with councillors.

The meeting follows sheltered housing residents in Ealing staging a demo in April outside Ealing Council offices to get the Labour-run council to reverse plans to ditch the Ealing Careline service.

Careline users hold meeting over cancelled service. Photo: ERSCAG
Careline users hold meeting over cancelled service. Photo: ERSCAG

Sheltered housing residents belonging to community union ACORN, along with representatives of Committee for Action in Sheltered Housing and Ealing Reclaim Social Care Action Group (ERSCAG), met with councillors from Ealing Labour, Ealing Liberal Democrats and Ealing Conservatives to raise their concerns.

According to campaigners, users of the service have been left in limbo and been given confusing information about alternatives with none said to provide a like for like service to what is currently offered.

Maggie Beirne, secretary of ERSCAG said that despite being invited, leader of Ealing Council Councillor Peter Mason along with Councillors Bassam Mahfouz and Josh Blacker who have council cabinet responsibility to residents of the service apologised for not attending the meeting.

Ms Beirne said it was “a matter of grave concern to all those present” that they didn’t attend.

Ms Beirne added: “Six Councillors did however attend – as it happened two from each political party – Councillor Ben Wesson and Cllr Kate Crawford (Labour), Councillor Athena Zissimos and Councillor Jo Ball (Lib Dems), and Councillor Julian Gallant and Councillor Seemar Kumar (Conservative) and they listened with attention to the concerns those present raised with them.”

Around 50 people attended the meeting, many of them living in sheltered housing or recipients of adult social care and users of the Careline service.

Among the concerns raised were over the closing of the service is and its impact especially on the most vulnerable people across Ealing. Existing users said they are confused by how the service is now being run and what emergency cover is being offered.

Residents also expressed their anger over what they called was an “inadequate consultation process” and the way in which the transition from in-house to outsourced Harrow Careline.

Ms Beirne said: “There is also grave concern that many people may be falling through the cracks and may not by reason of frailty, age or disability even be aware that they no longer have an Ealing Careline service.”

She added: “The Councillors all expressed concern at the oral and written testimonies received, agreed to convey our concerns onto colleagues, and to stay in touch with the campaign for a reversal of the decision to close the Careline or at the very least to ensure a like for like service.”

Speaking earlier this month on the closure of the service, Liberal Democrat Councillor Andrew Steed, spokesperson for caring services said: “The Liberal Democrats said the changes will mean that many users may be a lot more for the same type of service. The Labour-run Ealing Council have brought the changes in quickly and with no consultation, meaning that many users have felt uneasy about the changes. When I pressed the Council for details in the public meeting, sadly they have not responded with a clear answer. This will not reassure users.”

The emergency support service provides a pull cord or button press emergency call out service to those needing it.

Previously, trade union Unison wrote to the council over its concerns that the service was to be shut with the loss of 15 staff who handled 124,000 alarm calls and incidents over the past year.

Speaking to EALING.NEWS, an Ealing Council spokesperson said: “Ensuring that residents continue to receive the care they need is a top priority for us. We made the difficult decision to transfer Careline to Harrow because of concerns about the council’s ability to deliver the service to the standards our residents deserve and expect.

“Residents in receipt of adult social care continue to receive telecare telephone monitoring services via the Harrow Careline service, and we are considering commissioning an improved in-person responder service to supplement the Harrow Careline offer.”

They added: “We continue to talk with and listen to residents in sheltered accommodation about the changes and we are providing support to help them choose and arrange telecare services with alternative providers. Where appropriate, residents are also being referred to social care for assessments.

“Ealing Careline was also heavily subsidised by the council and needed significant additional investment for it to be modernised and fit for purpose. Given the significant pressures on council budgets, we simply could not afford to do this, but we have made arrangements so that all residents continue to receive the support they need.”

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