VULNERABLE people have been told they must now pay for a previously free helpline service.

Careline is currently used by more than 1,300 people in Barnsley and from next April those who want to continue using it must pay £3.24 a week.

Careline provides a round-the-clock monitoring service to vulnerable people - many of them elderly - who want to feel more protected in their own homes.

It's provided by the council's Independent Living at Home Service (ILAHS) and was previously funded by the government's Supporting People fund.

Funding is likely to cease due to government spending cuts.

One Careline user in Hoyland, who didn't want to be named, said it was worrying that funding cuts were hitting such an important service.

"People do use it and rely on it," she said. "If you fall or become ill, it ensures that an ambulance or relatives are called."

Cllr Jenny Platts, cabinet spokesman, said: "It is, of course, with reluctance this will become a paid service from April 2014. However, we will try to keep the charge as low as possible."

The move to a paid service will see the introduction of the latest and most simple to use assistive living technology from Bosch Healthcare.