Stevenage pensioner, 73, fears for the future as county switches safety focus

Herts County Council stopped funding the service on Wednesday.

Herts County Council stopped funding the service on Wednesday. - Credit: Archant

County Hall funding for safety equipment deemed essential to the welfare of elderly and vulnerable people ended on Wednesday.

Herts County Council has stopped funding the Visiting Support Service, which partly paid for emergency pull cords at sheltered flats in Arthur Gibbons Court and St Paul’s Court, both in Stevenage.

Pauline Huggard has lived at Arthur Gibbons Court in Jessop Road for the past five years with her husband George.

The 73-year-old said: “We don’t know how long it’s going to continue. There are a lot of people here who are a lot older than me and have health problems so really need this essential equipment.

“We came here because we felt secure and we don’t any more.”

The flats are owned by Aldwyck Housing Group which has agreed to fund the existing system for the next year. It also plans to work with North Herts District Council, which provides the alarm monitoring system, to find an alternative.

An Aldwyck spokesman said: “We are speaking with our customers to understand who would still like to receive this service and undertaking surveys of the buildings and the alarms to understand how this service can continue in the long term.”

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The county council says that its has stopped an ‘inconsistent and inequitable’ scheme provided by housing associations so funding can be given out on a case-by-case basis.

Despite ending funding for associations, the move will see alarms being installed in the homes of elderly and vulnerable people, helping them stay independent for longer, and allow the council to invest £500,000 in the Herts Healthy Homes scheme which helps people stay safe.

But Pauline said: “If they can’t find someone to take over the contract it will just be social housing.”