ELDERLY residents living at sheltered housing trust homes in Bromsgrove have started a campaign after being forced to pay a new weekly service charge.

In November, Bromsgrove District Housing Trust (BDHT) sent out letters to residents living at sheltered housing schemes across the district, including in Stoke Prior, Alvechurch, Fairfield, Catshill, Sidemoor and Rubery.

The letter informs tenants of the introduction of a new Enhance Housing Management Service.

BDHT says the new service is designed to help tenants enjoy and maintain their home, and includes the emergency call alarm system and visits from BDHT officers to check the health of residents.

But a campaign group has been formed opposed to being forced to pay a weekly charge of £4.70 from April, which will rise to £9.39 per week from April 2015.

Also, after the service's introduction this April, all new tenants will automatically be charged the full £9.39 a week.

The charge does not apply to people on benefits.

Lynn Horton, a spokesman for the group based at Edwin Court in Charford, said the problem was many people had seen the letter but thought it did not apply to them.

The Edwin Court resident explained this was because a number of residents chose to opt out of a previous BDHT service, which was offered in 2009.

"We were given the option to opt out, when we were told we did not have to pay for this service charge if we did not want to," she said.

"If people want the new service, and are willing to pay, we don't have a problem with that.

"It is people who are self funded that this is really going to hit.

"This is an enforced charge - you have to have it whether you want it or not."

The campaign has already written to Bromsgrove District councillors, is looking to get legal advice, and is also planning to hold meetings with residents.

Mark Robertson, BDHT's managing director, said: "Whilst we understand the concerns of our customers, we have been placed in an unenviable position.

"Worcestershire County Council is in the final stages of consulting to remove the funding that has previously provided these services.

"If we do nothing, these services will cease in three months time.

"We are hugely uncomfortable withdrawing these services from our customers, who either need them now or in the future.

"We understand some customers don’t feel they need the service now, but in order for us to remain viable we have to charge all of the customers in our sheltered schemes.

“We are doing everything we can to manage and mitigate the impact of the cuts, and have been very open and honest in our discussions with our customers.”

Anyone who wishes to contact the campaign can speak to Lynn on 01527 557173.