Elderly residents launch campaign against controversial new service charge

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.

Comments (4)

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9:13pm Wed 8 Jan 14

service sector says...

This is outrageous. There are very few wardens at BDHT properties and surely this charge is just to pay trustees not staff. Take one 30 flat block paying £9.39 per week on top of the rent and BDHT would roughly get £14, 000 per year. That's just for one block of residences. Where are the elderly supposed to get this money from, benefits?
If I were forced to pay this I am damned sure I would get my moneys worth and use the service every day just to make sure I was getting what I am paying for.
This is just a back door way of increasing rent because I am certain that the money generated by this charge wouldn't be used for the purpose it was imposed.
This is outrageous. There are very few wardens at BDHT properties and surely this charge is just to pay trustees not staff. Take one 30 flat block paying £9.39 per week on top of the rent and BDHT would roughly get £14, 000 per year. That's just for one block of residences. Where are the elderly supposed to get this money from, benefits? If I were forced to pay this I am damned sure I would get my moneys worth and use the service every day just to make sure I was getting what I am paying for. This is just a back door way of increasing rent because I am certain that the money generated by this charge wouldn't be used for the purpose it was imposed. service sector
  • Score: 5

1:03pm Thu 9 Jan 14

krisskross43 says...

Absolutely disgraceful! Very very few people actually use the support service provided by BDHT and the ones actually paying for it from their own funds is probably in single figures. Perhaps BDHT could provide actual figures to back up their assertion that this a valued service. I actually don't think many people would even notice if it had to be wound up.

I cannot understand how Housing Benefit is said to be paying the extra charge for most tenants. I was under the impression that care and support charges were excluded from Housing Benefit claims. If just 600 people a year claim Housing Benefit for this and it is granted that will be an additional £300,000 a year added to the Housing benefit bill just in Bromsgrove.......for a service that most of the claimants will not even use.
Absolutely disgraceful! Very very few people actually use the support service provided by BDHT and the ones actually paying for it from their own funds is probably in single figures. Perhaps BDHT could provide actual figures to back up their assertion that this a valued service. I actually don't think many people would even notice if it had to be wound up. I cannot understand how Housing Benefit is said to be paying the extra charge for most tenants. I was under the impression that care and support charges were excluded from Housing Benefit claims. If just 600 people a year claim Housing Benefit for this and it is granted that will be an additional £300,000 a year added to the Housing benefit bill just in Bromsgrove.......for a service that most of the claimants will not even use. krisskross43
  • Score: 7

2:38pm Thu 9 Jan 14

Enfieldian14 says...

Disgusting that elderly people, who are self funding, are expected to pay for a service that do not want or will not use. People should be given the option to opt in or out.
Disgusting that elderly people, who are self funding, are expected to pay for a service that do not want or will not use. People should be given the option to opt in or out. Enfieldian14
  • Score: 5

4:12pm Sat 11 Jan 14

krisskross43 says...

There are as yet no indications of what will be provided for this £9.39 a week. I do wonder how Housing Benefit entitlement can be claimed as a 'done deal' when no one knows what is on offer.

Personally I prefer to pay my £10 an hour for someone to clean my home or do my gardening for an hour a week. Or to pay for a taxi to the supermarket or doctors and back. These are the things that mean I can continue to live an independent life. I can buy in a lot of useful services for £500 a year! I certainly do not need a one size fits all that is being engineered to pick the pockets of residents purely to pay the wages within BDHT that Worcester Supporting People are no longer funding.
There are as yet no indications of what will be provided for this £9.39 a week. I do wonder how Housing Benefit entitlement can be claimed as a 'done deal' when no one knows what is on offer. Personally I prefer to pay my £10 an hour for someone to clean my home or do my gardening for an hour a week. Or to pay for a taxi to the supermarket or doctors and back. These are the things that mean I can continue to live an independent life. I can buy in a lot of useful services for £500 a year! I certainly do not need a one size fits all that is being engineered to pick the pockets of residents purely to pay the wages within BDHT that Worcester Supporting People are no longer funding. krisskross43
  • Score: 2

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