Headlines: May 23rd, 2006

A council’s Social Services Department has joined forces with the charity Age Concern to organise a trial telephone shopping service that will allow elderly and disabled people to buy groceries from their village shop without leaving their own homes.The three-month trial will be run by Age Concern and Norfolk Social Services. It will begin in July in the north of the county where two hundred people are eligible to take part. If it is successful it will be rolled out across Norfolk by next year and could benefit up to six thousand people

Age Concern also believes ‘teleshopping’ could be a boost to independently-run village shops who will gain customers in return for making free deliveries of goods. The Norfolk scheme is part of a 3.6 million pound government-supported project that could also include webcams, video-conferencing and special services on digital television to help deal with problems of isolation.

Chris Mowle, Norfolk County Council’s cabinet member for adult social services said elderly and frail people could feel alone at home. “If you can’t do your own groceries, it also opens the door to residential care much earlier than it needs to,” he said but he added that telephone services would not replace home visits by care staff.

Eligible people will be able to dial a local number and give a fortnightly shopping list. Groceries will then be ordered, packed and delivered from their village shop. Age Concern’s chief officer in North Norfolk. Chris Lemon, said that as well as dealing with isolation the scheme could help ease the problems of shops and post offices in a rural area. “We’re trying to promote the local stores and traders so this is another way of trying to keep the community alive,” he said.