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Provided by Mae Stewart, Editor UNISON Retired members Newsletter, Dundee, Perth and Angus.
Please note that this is not definitive information about benefits but will provide a signpost as to where to get up to date information. Please check the sources first. UNISON Scotland can take no responsibility for information that may be outdated or inaccurate.

Issue 39 November 2011

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UNISON members are regularly saving an average of over £213 by switching energy suppliers, by using UNISON's service.

It only takes a couple of minutes to find out how much you could save.

If you decide to switch suppliers through "UNION energy", don't forget to register for their Lifetime Energy Monitoring Programme to ensure you benefit from cheaper gas and electricity now and in the future.

Visit www.unionenergy.co.uk
or call 0800 094 9039
quoting UNISON

(Monday-Thursday 9am-6pm; Friday 9am-4pm; Saturday 9am-1pm)

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Finding a Care Home

(I thought twice about this information for the Newsletter; as hopefully most of us won’t need this for a good few years. However this information from Age Scotland gives a general update on todays’ situation as to care homes, and there could well be pensioners out there who are having to care for older family members who will find this useful. Mae)

Care homes all have to meet certain minimum standards, but they can still vary widely in the sort of accommodation and facilities that they offer.

Before you start looking for a care home, you should make sure that you have been assessed by the social work department of your local authority, so that you know what care you may need and what help you will be likely to receive towards the cost of the care home.

You should then be able to obtain a list of suitable homes from your local social work department or from Social Care and Social Work Improvement Scotland (SCSWIS), who are responsible for registering and inspecting care homes in Scotland. You are then advised to visit as many homes as you can, to find out which home you are likely to feel happy and comfortable living in

Find Out More:
• Download the Care Home Checklist
• Choice of accommodation
• Finding a care home
• Paying for permanent residential care (example - see below)

Paying for permanent residential care.
• Most people will be expected to pay towards the cost of their accommodation in a care home by using some of their income and capital. However, there are a number of public bodies that may have a duty to pay towards the cost of care home places.
• In order to receive any financial assistance that may be available to you from your local authority or NHS Health Board, a 'care assessment' of your needs must be carried out first, usually by a social worker from the local social work department of the local authority.
• There are also Free Personal and Nursing care payments available towards the cost of care, depending on the type of care you need, and depending on your age. You may also be entitled to claim for some benefits towards your cost of care.
• For more information contact the Age Scotland Helpline on 0845 125 9732 or by using their online contact form. http://www.ageuk.org.uk/scotland/

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Home Safety

** NB ** Older people are less likely than any other age group to be victims of crime. But there is one type of criminal that target older people: bogus callers.
Also known as distraction burglars, they trick their way into people’s homes to steal money and valuables while the householder’s attention is elsewhere.

Most callers are genuine and mean you no harm but bogus callers can often seem very plausible and will try to fool you.

Follow Age Scotland's advice and keep yourself safe and secure at your door.

Password scheme

All electricity‚ gas and water companies have a doorstep password scheme.
If you haven’t already done so‚ set up a password with each of them, choosing passwords that are unique and that you will remember. When a representative calls they will give you this unique password to confirm they are legitimate.
Keep the passwords out of sight but where you can easily find – if you need to fetch it‚ close the door first. If you print out this page or the corresponding booklet, there is space to write down the contact numbers and passwords.

Safety and security in your home

Use a door chain and‚ if you can‚ a spy hole. This makes it easier for you to identify who is at the door without fully opening it.

If you do not currently have a chain or spy hole, arrange to have them fitted. Call the Age Scotland Helpline on 0845 125 9732 to find out who can do this in your area.

Valuables and money

Do not keep large amounts of money in the house. It is safer in a bank or building society account. Do not leave money lying around where it is visible from outside or where it can be easily found.

Do not leave valuable items in view or where they can be easily found. Items of sentimental value‚ such as jewellery‚ may also be those that most appeal to burglars. It may be worth getting a small safe for your home.

What to do when someone calls
Before you go to the door: Close and lock the back door and any accessible windows before you go to the front door.

Bogus callers often work in pairs. One of them will try to keep you talking at the front door while the other tries to get in through the back door or a window.

Look through your spy hole or window
Try to check who a caller is before opening the door. Don’t let any caller pressure you into making a quick decision - if you are unsure‚ do not open the door.

Put your door chain on
Before you answer the door, put your door chain on and keep it on while you check the callers’ identity.

If you want to check with their company, keep the door chain on‚ tell the caller you are going to call their company and close the door.

Check the caller is who they say they are
A genuine caller will not object to you leaving them on the doorstep and closing the door while you confirm their identity‚ even if it is raining.

If the caller says they represent an electricity‚ gas or water company or another organisation such as the council or a charity, follow the checklist below to check that a caller is who they say they are.

Ask for the password
If you have set one up with the company, use it.

Does the caller have an identification card?
If the caller does not have identification card‚ ask the caller to go away and close the door. If the caller persists‚ dial 999 and ask for the police.
If the caller does have an identification card, ask to see it:
• Examine the card to see if it looks genuine
• Check the expiry date - is it still valid?
• Does the photograph on the card match the person at the door?
• Check the photograph is the original – has anything been stuck over it?
• If you want to call their company, do not use the telephone number on the caller’s identification card - if the identification card is not genuine then the telephone number on the card will not be genuine either
• Find the telephone number in your phone book, on a bill or call directory enquiries

Ask the company to confirm they have sent someone out to you. They will ask you for information about the identification card, what the caller looks like and may also ask for the date of birth or password of the caller.

If you need to get more information from the caller, leave the door chain on at all times.

If the company does not know the caller, dial 999 and ask for the Police, who will tell you what to do.

Put your safety first
Sometimes bogus callers pose as someone needing help – perhaps a glass of water or access to a telephone. Put yourself first. Do not feel you are rude or uncaring by saying ‘no’ – your own safety is more important.

Remember‚ it is your home
If you are unsure‚ do not open the door and do not let the caller in.

Rogue traders
Some cold callers will offer to do roofing‚ building or driveway resurfacing. Some will vastly overcharge for unnecessary‚ shoddy or non-existent work.
Do not agree to any cold caller doing any work for you.

Never accept an offer to drive you to withdraw money
There have been instances where older people have been driven to their bank or building society to withdraw money to pay the cold caller’s charges.

Do not accept an offer to be driven from anyone you do not know or do not trust. If you are pressurised to hand over money‚ keep your door closed‚ dial 999 and ask for the police.

Need some work done?
If you think you may need to have work done on your house or driveway‚ ask for quotes from two or three reputable companies. Friends and relatives may be able to recommend companies or trades people they have been pleased with.
Your local Age UK group may also be able to provide lists of companies and trades people to help you.

Your Passwords:
(There is a page set up on Age Scotland’s Web site with examples of a checklist for passwords if you should care to look at this. For those of you who have no internet access, then it’s a page which lists all the suppliers you might deal with and you write the passwords opposite. Personally, what I did when I read about the list was; always remember to keep the checklist in a safe, secure, but hidden place, where only you know where that information is. Mae)

Contacting Age Scotland:
Write to Age Scotland, Causewayside House, 160 Causewayside, Edinburgh EH9 1PR.
Telephone: 0845 833 0200. (Please note that they cannot contact third parties at your request, so please provide only your own contact details).
Age Scotland Helpline: 0845 125 9732 offers an independent, confidential telephone based information service to people aged fifty and over living in Scotland and to those associated with them such as their carers and families.
contact Age Scotland online: www.ageuk.org.uk/scotland (or Google ‘Age Scotland’)

(Ps: I know I say this all the time, but for those of you who have not yet been tempted to try the internet, then it might be worth your while to have a think about it, as more and more information is being dealt with online. However, I know that this may not always be possible, or indeed suit everyone. But, one of my older relatives had a go just a couple of months ago, and now they absolutely love it. So you never know until you try! Mae)

As usual; my apologies to Age Scotland (and any other contributors) for any misquotes.

Mae Stewart