I've just enjoyed, if that is the word, the Panorama episode "Gimme Shelter" about the cuts to sheltered housing wardens around the country, and the campaign against them. It featured Barnet council in the last segment, taking the decision to cut wardens, against the overwhelming opposition of the sheltered housing residents.
The whole programme is viewable here.
The aspect that most alarmed me about the programme is highlighted on the Panorama website: "How cutting edge kit helps the elderly". Kit, for heaven's sake!
If you watched the programme, you will have seen a different side to this: the kit that told a remote monitor whether you have been out of bed too long, sat in a cold room too long, fallen over... I'm sure all this assistive technology has its place, but it can't replace the human touch.
In the programme, a remote team guided by assistive technology was summoned by a sheltered housing resident who had been shopping and now could not find her purse. The trouble is, no one knew that that was what had happened. The A-Team to the rescue! An onsite warden could have helped the woman in five minutes with little fuss, and she would have seen a familiar face, to boot.
An onsite warden could also deal with the far more serious work of finding people who have fallen and cannot reach their panic cord/button or whatever other 'kit' might have been provided. That might have saved the life of the poor woman in Yeovil who lay in the fireplace for days and whose bitter son appeared on the programme.
All in all, I thought it was an excellent programme, well reported by Vivian White, only marred by a patronising introduction and ending from Jeremy Vine, exclaiming over the fact that the 'elderly are on the march' - why wouldn't they, like anyone else, be active in defence of their interests?
It is good that this issue is not over when it looks like it is over. Northampton residents, who featured heavily in the programme, are still protesting about the sheltered housing warden cuts, two years after they have gone through. All the signs are that Barnet campaigners will continue their fight.
For starters, join us this Wednesday, 26 August, at 5.30pm in Trafalgar Square, where we will be supporting Viv Todd on the fourth plinth.