Are UK councils about to undermine their telecare services?

The two items are here:

Elderly hit by council cuts (Denbighshire, Wales)

Fall alarms must be free to vulnerable (Stoke-on-Trent, England)

If I were a telecare user being charged for the service, I would want to know:

  • What is the cost per user? i.e. how much of my contribution to the cost is revenue-generating for the council or, if the tenant of a housing association, my landlord.
  • Is part of my contribution subsidising the cost of some users who are exempt from charges? If so, how much?
  • What efforts have been made by the service provider to mimimise costs, perhaps by looking for effective but less expensive equipment and monitoring software, or other efficiencies?


2 thoughts on “Are UK councils about to undermine their telecare services?

  1. The three bullet points above!
    Steve – who wrote this stuff? Whilst they are all interesting topics to discuss, I hardly think the average telecare user is going to be interested beyond “How much does it cost, can I get it for free, and is the service good value and efficient?”

    How can you justify your somewhat curious headline “Are UK councils about to undermine their telecare services?” I’m not sure ‘undermine’ is the right word. ‘Review’ might be more appropriate, as all councils must be under pressure to save money through efficiencies wherever they can.

  2. Three bullet points above

    Hi John,

    Thanks for your comments and for giving me the opportunity to expand on the rather compressed thought behind the headline.

    I agree that the average telecare user will only ask your questions, or, simply, ‘why are the charges going up?’ which is why I was careful to say ‘If I were a telecare user…’ [My new emphasis.] In phrasing these questions I wanted to point out that there are, as you said, interesting topics to discuss.

    With councils (and other telecare providers) under financial pressure, telecare services will come under two internal pressures: to put up charges and to make efficiency savings.

    The Preventative Technology Grant (PTG) was put in place to foster preventative telecare. For prevention to be effective, services need to reach all the people who will need them, and most of those who might need them. With mounting pressure on pensioners and disabled peoples’ living costs, monthly telecare charges will be an important deciding factor in take-up. In my opinion, putting up charges therefore undermines the principle of preventative telecare.

    The efficiency savings issue is an interesting one. I tend to assume that if a service is making an operating profit (and if not, why not?) the efficiency savings pressure is less. I welcome comments on whether this is a correct assumption or not.

    But let’s hypothesise about what appears to have happened with the (large? – again I’d appreciate comments) portion of the PTG funding that was spent not on developing new services and getting genuinely new technology out to a new cohort of clients, but which was spent in response to the perceived – some say manufactured – need to upgrade equipment and call centre monitoring software/systems. The PTG may have been cost-free money but this type of expenditure results in services now having a higher cost base to manage into the future.

    If that is the case, users faced with higher charges, or their representatives, should be asking awkward questions about the basis of those charges, including whether there are cheaper ways of obtaining the end result. After all, the ‘typical’ package of telecare equipment has now become a commodity, and when this happens in a market, prices should fall.

    Services must get their act together regarding charges. They not only have to be legal, but in the British cultural context they have to be fair and seen to be fair to be accepted.

    For a final twist, the screw on this matter is going to take another turn in the coming year when the Department of Health publishes its review of the Fairer Charging guidance.

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