herald

Thursday 19 April 2018

No security system at homes is 'a bomb waiting to explode'

Michael Rowland says the emergency call system at Mellowes Court, Finglas, has been out of order for several months
Michael Rowland says the emergency call system at Mellowes Court, Finglas, has been out of order for several months

Older residents of a local authority housing scheme are in fear for their lives after a breakdown of the emergency call system in their homes.

The emergency system at Mellowes Court, Finglas, has now been out of order for several months. It consists of pull cords that act as a means for elderly residents to contact emergency services.

Resident Michael Rowland (66) told the Herald the devices had been disconnected in all 62 residents' homes.

He said many residents were living alone and some were ill, with no way of calling for help if they were the victim of an attack or found themselves in an emergency situation.

Mr Rowland revealed that some unwell residents could not leave their homes and the emergency call system was vital for them.

Fixed

He said people were "scared" of what may happen to them if the disconnected emergency cords were not fixed.

Many were particularly fearful after hearing reports of assaults on elderly citizens, such as Wicklow woman Eva Sutton, he added.

Two men were jailed this week for the violent attack on Ms Sutton in her Bray home in September 2015.

With the emergency cords not working in the bathrooms, bedrooms and kitchens of the homes, Mr Rowland feared that if an incident occurred, an elderly victim would not be able to alert anyone.

He has reported the situation to Dublin City Council, the fire brigade and gardai.

"I've been going from Billy to Jack to get this sorted," he said.

"Other people are a lot older than me and some of them could not get out of their homes if something was to happen.

"It's like a bomb waiting to go off," he added.

Dublin City Council confirmed that the cords were not working.

While Mr Rowland said the problem first arose three months ago, a council spokesperson denied this and said it was later than that.

A request for further clarification on the issue went unreturned last night.

Mr Rowland described himself as the "handyman" resident of the estate and said he usually made sure the cords were in reach of other residents at all times.

"I would usually call around and make sure the cords reached the whole way to the ground," he said.

"That way, if someone was on the ground as a result of a fall, they could still hopefully pull the cord."

Fianna Fail spokesperson for older people, Mary Butler, said she had been "shocked and disgusted" by the recent attack on Ms Sutton. The party has called for a stronger legal response.

"There can be no toleration of these types of attack and it is clear that those who perpetrate them should feel the full rigours of the justice system," Ms Butler said.

"Vulnerable older people should never be fearful about staying in their homes.

"There needs to be a discussion in this country about how we deal with people who engage in abhorrent and senseless attacks on vulnerable people."

She said she would work closely with the party's spokesman on justice, Jim O'Callaghan, to "identify ways in which the legal system can act as a stronger deterrent to those considering attacking older people".

Neil Garvey, chief executive of the community development organisation Muintir na Tire, told RTE's Morning Ireland yesterday that there had been an underspend in the funding allocation for the Seniors Alert Scheme, which funds the protection of older people in their homes.

Emergency

Mr Garvey wanted a portion of State funding utilised to promote the scheme to ensure that pensioners were aware of its existence.

Age Action echoed the concerns and said that many older people were not aware of the scheme as a large number did not go online.

The charity suggested that the elderly should be informed in print and via other sources.

The scheme funds alarms for the elderly to wear around their necks and panic buttons on wrists, to facilitate the raising of the alarm in an emergency.

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