Fears raised pensioners will have to pay stairlift maintenance costs

Colin Williamson’s mother was told that she will no longer have the stairlift in her home maintained when a funded contract ends.

Fears raised pensioners will have to pay stairlift maintenance costs by West Lothian man LDRS

A West Lothian man has voiced fears that pensioners who own their own homes could face hefty maintenance bills for stairlifts.

Colin Williamson’s 80-year-old mother was told that she will no longer have the stairlift in her Livingston home maintained when a funded contract ends this month.

Up till now the Integration Joint Board (IJB) which manages health care for the NHS and the council has funded the maintenance contracts, which can cost anything up to £150 a year, for stairlifts in private homes.

Some homeowners are worried about what will happen once a decision from West Lothian’s Health and Social Care partnership kicks in in January.

The decision was taken in March by the IJB as  one of several cost cutting measures to tackle a £17m budget shortfall.

Mr Williamson told the Local Democracy Reporting Service: “An engineer came out to fix my mother’s stairlift and said that West Lothian Council is the only council to be withdrawing this essential cover. 

“As a community councillor I have raised this with my local councillor Maria MacAulay, local MSP Angela Constance. Her PA, Councillor Pauline Clark claims this decision was made by a small committee with little representation on it .”

He added: “The council has put money aside to assist those financially struggling but did not refer to this. In the initial letter to elderly home owners the council suggested approaching stairlift manufacturers to discuss maintenance cover.” 

Mr Wlliamson, whose brother Andy is their mother’s primary carer, claimed more could have been done to stop this being introduced.

He added: “My fear is that this will compromise the safety at home of elderly homeowners. This has distressed my elderly mother greatly.

“The council should have put together a task force including social work, Carers of West Lothian, and approached stairlift manufacturers on behalf of elderly homeowners.

“The burden of being left to negotiate cover alone will be daunting. That is why I feel the council should have agreed to use its collective power to negotiate with companies on behalf of elderly homeowners to get the best deal possible.”

Councillor MacAulay told the LDRS: “Despite the SNP consistently advocating for safeguarding services, this move puts the ongoing care needs of many at risk, and frankly, it’s quite disconcerting that the council went down this route.”

The IJB is responsible for commissioning adult health and social care services and overseeing the delivery of these services and is provided with funding by West Lothian council and NHS Lothian to do so.

There are 18 members of the IJB, eight of whom can vote. Four of the eight are councillors elected to the IJB.

A West Lothian Council spokesperson said: “After the West Lothian Integration Joint Board (IJB) agreed its budget in March 2023, the decision was taken for West Lothian Council to cease service and repair of all stairlifts within relevant properties from December 31. This decision does not affect council housing tenants. 

“From 2019 onward, the responsibility for ongoing maintenance of all new stairlifts in non-council house properties was passed to the homeowner or tenant as well as ownership of the equipment. 

“The decision made in March 2023 affects only those who had their equipment installed before 2019, and ensures the maintenance arrangements for all are the same.

“Correspondence was sent on September 18 2023 to all affected people. Details for the council’s advice shop were included for anyone who may require support with income maximisation. 

“A list of contractors was also provided to support people with setting up a maintenance contract. A dedicated email address was provided within the correspondence for any further information or support.”

“Like all public sector bodies, the IJB, which commissions adult health and social care services in West Lothian faces a significant budget gap over three years as the increase in funding available is not enough to cover rising demand for services as well as the increasing costs of delivering essential and critical care and support services.

“The IJB has a £17.3m funding gap over three years and as a result has had to review and identify savings measures in order to protect essential services.”

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