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War veteran's free lifeline scrapped
A DISABLED pensioner from Fordingbridge says she doesn't know how she will cope after the county council withdrew funding for an emergency callout service.
Claire Keen, 89, who served in the Belgian Resistance during the Second World War, received the news that her Lifeline Community Alarm service was being pulled on the 70th anniversary of D-Day on Friday.
Mrs Keen, who will be 90 in July, lives independently thanks to the device, which can summon help 24 hours a day if she gets into difficulties.
Hampshire County Council is withdrawing the funding, but the letter informing Mrs Keen the free service was being withdrawn from September 30 came from New Forest District Council.
The service varies in cost, depending on which type of service and equipment is used, and Mrs Keen's annual bill would be £184.
But Mrs Keen says she will really struggle to find the money and feels ashamed.
Mrs Keen said: “I was born in Belgium and served in the war. I was a member of the Belgian Underground and risked my life along with others defending our country.
“I helped during D-Day on June 6, 1944. And on Friday I received this terrible letter from the district council informing me they will be charging me.
“Surely people over 85 should not have to pay for it? It just would not be humane.
“This is not what we fought the war for. My mind is sharp but I suffer from physical difficulties, but I am still able to look after myself.
“While I understand the need to save, I think this is the wrong kind of savings.
It is still cheaper for everyone that I can live independently but now I will be fearful in case I have a fall or an accident.”
Mayor Malcolm Connolly has promised to help Mrs Keen if he can.
He said: “It seems whoever is responsible for this decision has not thought it through. While the amount Mrs Keen is being charged in isolation seems a small amount, for many people budgets are so tight that this could be the straw that broke the camel's back.”
A spokesman from New Forest District Council said: “The district council has apologised to Mrs Keen for any offence caused by the arrival of its letter on D-Day - this was due to an administrative oversight. She will be personally contacted by NFDC's Community Alarms supervisor to discuss the matter.”
Hampshire County Council's executive member for adult social care and public health Liz Fairhurst said: “With unprecedented pressure on our budgets, one of the biggest challenges is meeting the increasing demand for social care from Hampshire's ageing population, which is growing by about 1,000 each year.
“We are reviewing services funded via the £25m Supporting People budget, to ensure they are being delivered in the best way so that they can remain sustainable for the future.
“We remain fully committed to supporting those in our community that are most vulnerable.”
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