£1.7m investment to bring Rothercare emergency alarm system into digital age

Rothercare kitRothercare kit
Rothercare kit
SENIOR councillors will set aside £1.7 million to switch the Rothercare emergency alarms over to a fully digital system.

Rotherham Council held a consultation over modernising the lifeline service, which supports nearly 7,000 residents in 5,646 properties to live independently.

Controversy over the £170-a-year charge being mandatory in some council tenancies led to it being dubbed a “bungalow tax” in Advertiser coverage two years ago.

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And residents made it clear in consultation that they want the service to be optional for council tenants.

One said: “It is time the Rothercare service was removed from the tenancy agreement for council tenants.”

A report going to cabinet on Monday (22) says: “Respondents were clear that the service should be choice based and only people who require a service should have to pay for it.”

The old copper network will be turned off in December 2025, after which landlines will use the internet to make calls.

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The switchover means Rothercare needs to be modernised – a task which RMBC started a few years ago, with 1,647 digital units issued so far.

Cabinet members will be asked to approve £1.7 million of capital funding next week to cover the remaining 4,279.

Cllr Michael Bennett-Sylvester has championed the right of council tenants who have to pay the “bungalow tax” as a mandatory charge to have a choice instead.

He said: “It’s good to see a report that recognises what residents have been saying to me and what I’ve been saying to the council for the past few years.

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“Before allocating the £1.7 million for digitisation though, it would be wise for the council to ask exactly who wants the service and see if any savings can be made by not providing units for those who would prefer not to have Rothercare.”

The council is warning that increased cost relating to Sim cards in the new systems will need to be addressed through either higher prices for customers or reduced costs found on RMBC’s side.

Rothercare, which is connected to a 24-hour call centre taking 6,700 calls a week, is available to all adults in Rotherham regardless of age or level of disability or frailty. About half of customers live in private properties.