FEARS have been raised over recent changes to services which help vulnerable older people live independently in their homes.

Prior to April 1 this year, services including 'lifeline' alarms worn around the neck and weekly warden visits were funded by North Yorkshire County Council (NYCC) and delivered in Ryedale by Yorkshire Housing.

In 2017, NYCC retendered and from April 1, the contract was awarded to another provider, NRS Healthcare.

One user of the former Yorkshire Housing-delivered service, Steve Meek, 68, of Settrington, said he and his wife Gail moved to the area in 2005 and had used the "wonderful" service.

He said: "We had an assessment by Yorkshire Housing (YH) who arranged for a warden to call once a week and had a lifeline installed including a pendant to wear. This was a free service up to April this year when we were asked to pay to keep it."

He said the warden visits could be important human contact for a vulnerable person and though they are in a position to meet the costs, he fears that charges may lead to some vulnerable people having to cut down on heating, for example, or even make a move out of their own home.

"People who are unable to afford this amount will not able to stay in their own homes, as the lifeline is a safety factor for their wellbeing and a key part of being assessed before leaving hospital," he added.

A spokesperson for NYCC said: "Until April 2018, we worked with Yorkshire Housing in Ryedale who installed and maintained assistive technology equipment, provided by us, in people’s homes.

"As a result of a competitive procurement exercise, NRS Healthcare is now the council's assistive technology partner and works across North Yorkshire installing assistive technology."

The 'assistive technology' can include 24/7 monitored services such as alarms in the home people can press if they need assistance, standalone equipment that can alert family or friends, as well as technology such as GPS trackers, fall detectors and epilepsy monitors.

NYCC said that under the new system there will be a 12-week funded care programme to help regain independence, and only then will there be a charge following a financial assessment.

The spokesperson added: "The council provides, through NRS, assistive technology equipment as part of a reablement package - an intensive 12-week care programme to help people regain independence. This is provided on a non-chargeable basis for the reablement period.

"If a person goes on to have eligible care needs that assistive technology can meet, then the cost of the service will be taken into account in the financial assessment.

"If the person does not have eligible care needs, then they can continue with their assistive technology service on a self-pay basis with NRS."

Separately, Yorkshire Housing said it will continue to run its Help at Hand service and will be visiting customers in the coming weeks in order to discuss their options.

A spokesperson said: "However, as we are no longer funded through a contract this will be on a paid-for basis. The cost for a Yorkshire Housing pendant alarm is £6.92 per week."