Careline is a lifeline for West Sussex residents

Call centres are normally the last places you want to hear from.

But there is a different kind of call centre in Chichester that has been acting as special link to help people in need for more than 20 years.

Careline has been providing reassurance and emergency assistance for vulnerable people around the district through its various initiatives, such as fall detectors, pull cords, and many more.

It provides a degree of independence that would otherwise be unthinkable for some who have had their lives transformed by the scheme.

The team at the call centre in Florence Road have all the callers’ personal circumstances available at the click of a button and can determine the right course of action within seconds, be it calling the fire service, police or an ambulance, or to stay on the line and have a friendly chat.

Each customer’s home is fitted with a control box connected to the phone line. Through that, no less than 12 different devices can tell staff, who deal with 2,000 calls a day, whether the customer is in need of help.

Linda Titheridge who lives in Southbourne is a keen advocate of the fall detector, having being given the first-ever one when she signed up 14 years ago.

In 1988 she fell off a horse, taking a bad knock to the head. She subsequently lost her memory and suffered a stroke, and is now wheelchair-bound, unable to use her left arm or leg.

But with the detector she has a continual reassurance that if she does fall, or feel unwell, the staff at the centre can be notified within seconds.

“It certainly is a life-saver for me,” said the 49-year-old. “The fall detector is the first thing I put on in the morning and the last thing I take off at night.

“I feel safe in my own home. If there is someone trying to break in I push the button and the police are here.

“It’s there for me all the time. The staff are not just carers, they are all good friends. They all know me very well and I do them.

“They are a main part of my life, I would not manage without them.”

It does not just provide peace of mind for Miss Titheridge, but also for her family who do not live locally.

She said: “It’s great for reassurance for family and friends because they all know Linda is all right, she has the button. They have always been a lot happier since I started with it.

“It’s nice to know that although I’m in a wheelchair, it’s given me the confidence to do things I might not have done.

“I would certainly advise anybody to try it.

One of her carers, Emma Allen, 30, said: “I had never heard of Careline until I started working for Linda. I can see how much it helps her, and it helps her confidence.”

Manager at the centre, run by Chichester District Council, Brenda Jackson, has been there since 1991.

“I don’t think people realise how sad and vulnerable things are out in the community, to be honest,” she said.

“It’s such a life-saver. It can be used for whatever you want it to be used for, it is not just used for people that are ill.”

Careline is also used by young vulnerable people, for example several university students use it, which gives peace of mind for their families living far away.

It can also be used to give respite for full-time carers.