Community alarm service saved

More than 1,500 Winchester residents will continue to benefit from a 24-hour-a-day, 365-day-a-year community alarm service under a new contract funded by Winchester City Council.

The £37,000-a-year contract with Chichester Careline started on 1 July 2016 and will run for at least five years. It replaces the previous in-house community alarm service which ended in March 2015 following the withdrawal of funding from Hampshire County Council.

Around 800 users of the service are City Council tenants living in sheltered housing while about 700 are ‘Lifeline’ customers - people living in other private and social housing in the Winchester district.

Cllr Caroline Horrill, the City Council’s Portfolio Holder for Housing, said:

The alarm monitoring system is integral to the City Council’s sheltered housing service and enables people to maintain independence within their homes. More than 13,000 calls were made between April and December 2015 from City Council service-users which were answered and dealt with by the Community Alarm Centre. In response to these call the Community Alarm Centre made over 1,528 outgoing calls to meet the needs of the service-users.

Every sheltered housing property has an alarm intercom unit or a lifeline and pull-cords which allows tenants to contact the Community Alarm Centre in an emergency. Some tenants also opt to wear pendants for additional peace of mind.

When an alarm is activated operators from Chichester’s Alarm Centre know who the tenant is, where they are calling from and if they have any special needs or specific health problems. They talk to the tenant to understand what assistance is required and will then act accordingly, which could mean contacting a doctor, emergency services or tenants’ agreed contacts such as a relative or friend.

Mrs Velma Pike, a resident at Normandy Court sheltered housing in Wickham, said:

The alarm service is brilliant. When I’ve pressed the alarm I have got straight through to the call centre who have always helped me.

Chichester Careline is part of Chichester District Council and won the contract in a competitive tender. The careline has been operating as an alarm monitoring centre since 1984. It provides services for around 26,000 people across several districts. Winchester City Council had worked in partnership with Chichester Careline on an interim basis before the contract award was made.

Winchester City Council has an improvement programme to upgrade communal facilities at its sheltered housing schemes. The first to see improvements was Normandy Court, Wickham. The scheme has been redecorated, with new carpets and furniture in the communal lounge and guestroom. The kitchen was also replaced and has new appliances. The lounge now has a television so that residents can enjoy watching events together, such as the Queen’s 90th Birthday celebrations and more recently the tennis at Wimbledon. The improvements are part of work the sheltered housing team is doing to reduce social isolation for tenants and encourage residents to use the communal facilities and take part in activities arranged at the schemes.