On a wild windy day, only 50m from the crashing waves of Cardigan Bay, Sarah Rochira (Older People’s Commissioner) and her colleague Kelly came to visit Mrs Jones in Aberystwyth, whose terraced house nestles snugly against the castle walls.
We have been helping Mrs Jones to reduce her eye-watering £318 per month Direct Debit from Scottish Power. Mrs Jones had reached the end of her tether in trying to contact Scottish Power since August, when her payments went up to this incredible figure. We hit the same impenetrable brick wall, and only found a way through by using the Welsh language service. Having given the helpful Scottish Power officer the updated meter readings, we have reduced her Direct Debit to a still painful £192 per month. We are working with the client to tackle her inefficient heating scheme.
The Commissioner’s conversation with Mrs Jones, however, uncovered a wider and far more personal issue, common to far too many older people, even in close knit urban areas. Loneliness and isolation was her real heartache. 'I've always been such a sociable person, I loved going out... I've only been out of the house once in the past year, and that was only up the road to St Michael's Church for a funeral.'
The house is accessed via numerous steep, uneven, and varying height steps and, whilst a handrail has been fitted, Mrs Jones still sees the climb back up as an Everest too daunting to face.
Why doesn't she find a more suitable property? A flat or a sheltered scheme?
Herein lies the problem. This is not Mrs Jones's house, it is her home! Her home, which was bought nearly 50 years ago when she was newly married. 'We put in an offer on it and were worried sick all night, but it was the best thing we ever did.... We’ve raised our children and grandchildren here and my grandson still lives with me. I do not want to leave my home.'
The third sector, including us at Care & Repair, must continue to work together to help older people in all aspects that affect their ability to remain independent. That means far more than repairs and adaptations alone, it's all about the 'Care'.
Rheolwr Gofal a Thrwsio / Care & Repair Manager