Help keep the cowboys at bay

Christmas appeal

THE FUTURE of a project which has saved thousands of old people from being ripped off by "cowboy" tradesmen is in jeopardy, as its corporate sponsorship is due to expire at the end of next year, writes Linus Gregoriadis.

The Handyperson scheme, set up by Age Concern two years ago, provides voluntary workers who carry out domestic tasks, including fitting smoke alarms and moving heavy furniture.

The volunteers, who wear distinctive overalls and carry identification cards, are a welcome relief for many vulnerable people, who are reluctant to pay for professional help through fear of being overcharged by unscrupulous contractors.

By enabling simple jobs such as changing light bulbs and fitting plugs to be done, the scheme allows many old people who might otherwise be forced to move into residential accommodation to continue living at home.

A spokeswoman for Age Concern said: "Although British Gas has committed more than pounds 500,000 to the project and will continue to work with Age Concern in other schemes, its funding for Handypersons will finish at the end of next year. We are looking for more funding to continue the project."

In 15 schemes across Britain, volunteers for the Handypersons scheme have carried out 24,252 hours of work and completed 15,805 jobs, according to the charity.

Mike Evans, who runs a scheme in Milton Keynes with the help of eight volunteers, has helped about 430 over-60s. He said: "We try to ensure they can stay in their homes safely and in comfort. The scheme removes the worry of finding a tradesman who will come and who can be trusted. We have heard terrible stories of cowboys taking money in advance and then either not coming back or doing a botched job which we have to come and clear up."

Like many old people, Anna, 76, is grateful for the assistance she has received from the project. Living alone in a semi-detached house in Milton Keynes, she has been dependent on a walking stick since she had a hip replacement operation five years ago. She did not want her surname published, for fear of drawing attention to herself. Keith Ellemore, her volunteer, has carried out various jobs, including fitting a new lock on her shed after her lawn mower was stolen. He also installed a light outside her front door. Anna said: "I live in a dark street. It's nicer to have some light rather than groping in the darkness for the keyhole. It also helps you see who has come to the door."

Mr Ellemore, who became a volunteer to occupy his time while looking for a full-time job, said: "Some jobs, like changing plugs, appear to be trivial, but they can make a huge amount of difference to people. It can be a huge weight off their minds getting something sorted out.

"When someone is discharged from hospital, you can create a bedroom on the ground floor of their home for them so they don't have to use the stairs. It can be the difference between staying at home and moving into care."

Nora McCarron, 63, has also benefited from Mr Ellemore's help. "He's been wonderful. He tested my smoke alarm and said that it wasn't working. He went and got one for me. They can recommend people you can trust to do other jobs at a reasonable cost. If you get a plumber in it can cost pounds 30-pounds 35 an hour."

Mr Ellemore says he has been touched by the thanks he has received. "Once I got a spontaneous hug from a lady who had somehow knocked the cover off the battery compartment of her electric wheelchair and couldn't get it back on. It was quite a minor job to fix it, but it made such a difference to her."

Donations to our Christmas Appeal may go towards this or other vital projects run by Age Concern.

News
Netherlands' goalkeeper Tim Krul fails to make a save from Costa Rica's midfielder Celso Borges during a penalty shoot-out in the quarter-final between Netherlands and Costa Rica during the 2014 FIFA World Cup
newsGoalkeepers suffer from 'gambler’s fallacy' during shoot-outs
Arts and Entertainment
Sydney and Melbourne are locked in a row over giant milk crates
artCultural relations between Sydney and Melbourne soured by row over milk crate art instillation
News
A scene from the video shows students mock rioting
newsEnd-of-year leaver's YouTube film features playground gun massacre
News
Two giraffes pictured on Garsfontein Road, Centurion, South Africa.
i100
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
ebookA unique anthology of reporting and analysis of a crucial period of history
Environment
View from the Llanberis Track to the mountain lake Llyn
Du’r Arddu
environmentA large chunk of Mount Snowdon, in north Wales, is up for sale
Travel
travel
Voices
A family sit and enjoy a quiet train journey
voicesForcing us to overhear dull phone conversations should be regarded as an offensive act
News
Kenny Ireland, pictured in 2010.
peopleBenidorm, actor was just 68
Arts and Entertainment
Adèle Exarchopoulos and Léa Seydoux play teeneage lovers in the French erotic drama 'Blue Is The Warmest Colour' - The survey found four times as many women admitting to same-sex experiences than 20 years ago
arts + ents
Arts and Entertainment
arts + ents
News
people
News
i100This Instagram photo does not prove Russian army is in Ukraine
News
Morrissey pictured in 2013
people
News
i100
Life and Style
The director of Wall-E Andrew Stanton with Angus MacLane's Lego model
gadgetsDesign made in Pixar animator’s spare time could get retail release
News
peopleGuitarist, who played with Aerosmith, Lou Reed and Alice Cooper among others, was 71
Environment
Tyred out: should fair weather cyclists have a separate slow lane?
environmentFormer Labour minister demands 'pootling lanes' for women cyclists
News
people
Independent
Travel Shop
the manor
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on city breaks Find out more
santorini
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on chic beach resorts Find out more
sardina foodie
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on country retreats Find out more
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Hydraulic Power Pack Design Engineer

competitive: Progressive Recruitment: I recruit for contract mechanical design...

SQL DBA/ C# Developer - T-SQL, C#.Net

£45000 - £55000 per annum + Benefits: Ashdown Group: Working with an exciting ...

SCO Supervisor Electrical

competitive: Progressive Recruitment: My client based in the Midlands is looki...

Ecommerce Executive

£20000 - £24000 per annum: Ashdown Group: Ecommerce Executive Working with an...

Day In a Page

Dress the Gaza situation up all you like, but the truth hurts

Robert Fisk on Gaza conflict

Dress the situation up all you like, but the truth hurts
Save the tiger: Tiger, tiger burning less brightly as numbers plummet

Tiger, tiger burning less brightly

When William Blake wrote his famous poem there were probably more than 100,000 tigers in the wild. These days they probably number around 3,200
5 News's Andy Bell retraces his grandfather's steps on the First World War battlefields

In grandfather's footsteps

5 News's political editor Andy Bell only knows his grandfather from the compelling diary he kept during WWI. But when he returned to the killing fields where Edwin Vaughan suffered so much, his ancestor came to life
Lifestyle guru Martha Stewart reveals she has flying robot ... to take photos of her farm

Martha Stewart has flying robot

The lifestyle guru used the drone to get a bird's eye view her 153-acre farm in Bedford, New York
Former Labour minister Meg Hillier has demanded 'pootling lanes' for women cyclists

Do women cyclists need 'pootling lanes'?

Simon Usborne (who's more of a hurtler) explains why winning the space race is key to happy riding
A tale of two presidents: George W Bush downs his paintbrush to pen father’s life story

A tale of two presidents

George W Bush downs his paintbrush to pen father’s life story
Restaurateur Mitch Tonks has given the Great Western Pullman dining car a makeover

The dining car makes a comeback

Restaurateur Mitch Tonks has given the Great Western Pullman dining car a makeover
Gallery rage: How are institutions tackling the discomfort of overcrowding this summer?

Gallery rage

How are institutions tackling the discomfort of overcrowding this summer?
Louis van Gaal has £500,000 video surveillance system installed to monitor Manchester United players

Eye on the prize

Louis van Gaal has £500,000 video surveillance system installed to monitor Manchester United players
Women's rugby: Tamara Taylor adds fuel to the ire in quest to land World Cup

Women's rugby

Tamara Taylor adds fuel to the ire in quest to land World Cup
Save the tiger: The day America’s love of backyard tigers led to a horrific bloodbath

The day America’s love of backyard tigers led to a horrific bloodbath

With only six per cent of the US population of these amazing big cats held in zoos, the Zanesville incident in 2011 was inevitable
Samuel Beckett's biographer reveals secrets of the writer's time as a French Resistance spy

How Samuel Beckett became a French Resistance spy

As this year's Samuel Beckett festival opens in Enniskillen, James Knowlson, recalls how the Irish writer risked his life for liberty and narrowly escaped capture by the Gestapo
We will remember them: relatives still honour those who fought in the Great War

We will remember them

Relatives still honour those who fought in the Great War
Star Wars Episode VII is being shot on film - and now Kodak is launching a last-ditch bid to keep celluloid alive

Kodak's last-ditch bid to keep celluloid alive

Director J J Abrams and a few digital refuseniks shoot movies on film. Simon Usborne wonders what the fuss is about
Once stilted and melodramatic, Hollywood is giving acting in video games a makeover

Acting in video games gets a makeover

David Crookes meets two of the genre's most popular voices