Social alarms to telecare
Older people’s services in transition

Six: Social alarms in Scotland


As noted in Chapter Four, many social alarm services managed by Scottish local authorities are distinguished by the extent to which social work departments were instrumental in their establishment. This is despite social alarms in Scotland sharing, with the rest of Great Britain, their provenance in sheltered housing. The fact, however, that resident wardens in sheltered housing schemes were generally paid for or subsidised by the social work authorities meant that those authorities had greater influence.

The earliest social alarm services in Scotland were those of East Lothian and Central Regional Councils, both social work authorities. Both used non-speech radio equipment. They were, therefore, part of that early raft of pioneers that included Stockport and Oldham south of the border.

The interest generated in other Scottish authorities by the establishment of MECS in Central Region was substantial and as a consequence several sought to follow their example. There was, however, no rush. The pace of development was such that just one new Scottish service was established in each of the seven years from 1980 to 1986 (Duncan, 1993). The caution of authorities reflected:

  • a desire to await and consider the outcomes of the Central Region initiative;

  • a recognition of the high capital cost of equipment, this being added to where equipment in sheltered or amenity housing schemes might require replacement because of its incompatibility with that at the monitoring and response centre;

  • concerns regarding likely additional costs of providing for the needs of users in rural areas;

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