THOUSANDS of pensioners and disabled people in Worcestershire could be made to pay for alarms in their homes.

About 6,500 people could be affected by a county council bid to save money on a 24-hour alarm service.

The alarms, activated by pulling a cord or pressing a button on a pendant, link to either housing association wardens or specialists at a call centre in Malvern who can contact emergency services.

Until now pensioners on housing benefits were given the service free.

However, county council chiefs are consulting over a charge.

They have refused to reveal how much money they are thinking of asking for, but say the 6,500 people who get it free are subsidised by taxpayers to the tune of £914,000 a year.

The customers include mainly elderly people, but also some vulnerable under 65s who have a range of disabilities and require a 24-hour alarm.

Elaine Carolan, lead joint commissioning manager for the county council, said: “Currently there are different criteria in place to determine whether someone should receive a call alarm funded by Worcestershire County Council.

“This has resulted in people who use a call alarm paying different amounts for the monitoring of their call alarm – some people pay nothing while others pay as much as £4 a week.

“In Worcestershire we hope to move to a system where everyone will have access to the same service at the same price.

“This could result in some people paying more than they currently do for their call alarm.”

About 2,000 letters have gone out to customers asking them for views on what they would be prepared to pay.