The National Association of Care Catering (NACC) is calling for urgent Governmental intervention in the wake of a damning report, researched and written by the Association for Public Service Excellence (APSE), shows vital Meals on Wheels services on the brink of collapse, with only 29% still in operation across the UK, and fewer than 18% in England.
Meals on Wheels supports vulnerable people to live independently in the community by reducing the risk of malnutrition, loneliness, or social isolation. Alongside at least one nutritious hot meal every day, the regular caring contact helps reduce avoidable health and care costs, as well as providing support for carers.
Meals on Wheels are not statutory for local authorities to provide, so councils can remove the service to save money even though BAPEN reports that malnutrition costs the UK taxpayer £19 billion per annum.
As part of this year’s Meals on Wheels Week, 30th October to 3rd November 2023, the NACC is calling on Government to:
The NACC, along with several other signatories, that include Age UK and Care England, has written to MP’s today to raise its concerns for the future of the Meals on Wheels services and for the far reaching and potentially disastrous ramifications if such a vital lifeline into older and more vulnerable people living in our communities was to be lost completely.
NACC chair, Neel Radia comments: “With councils facing a funding gap of some £7 Billion, in adult social care, cutting a service which is relatively low-cost in offering multiple lines of support to vulnerable adults is frankly a cheap cut. The benefits of the service far outweigh the costs. Hacking away at a preventative service for the most vulnerable in our communities is not only short-sighted but wasteful of public funds. We need the Government to step up to the plate and deliver the right funding for councils so that they do not face a choice of long-term prevention services for older people facing the axe, whilst at the same time knowing that this approach will push up costs to the public purse forcing more vulnerable people into costly care in either residential or hospital settings.
Radia added “With the NHS in long-term crisis it is obtuse to add to the public health burden by cutting an ill-health prevention and support service, that is of itself a cost-effective way of supporting older people. The answer is to give councils the direct funding to support meals on wheels and ensure the service has a long-term future.
“It is our assertion that there is a direct link between the decline in public spending on the service and the increase in community-based malnutrition, and that a boost to spending could significantly reduce financial burdens to health and social care systems.
“We are therefore asking that the Government provides Ministerial guidance to local councils to safeguard the provision of Meals on Wheels and lunch clubs in the UK, as currently there is no mandatory requirement for a local authority to provide a service at all! Allied to this funding must be directed and ringfenced to support delivery of these essential services.”
APSE Principal Advisor, Vickie Hacking, said:
"The research APSE has conducted highlights the wide range of benefits provided by Meals on Wheels. These services offer essential benefits to service users, including carrying out welfare checks, tackling loneliness and facilitating a healthy diet. Meals on Wheels not only supports the individual, but also wider services in health and social care by helping older adults to retain independence in their homes and communities.
"In a time when the NHS, community care and social care services face an unprecedented level of strain, solutions that enable people to live at home for longer are indispensable. Those who deliver the meals and coordinate the service in local authorities are an absolute lifeline to people who need care and support – I hope that this report will emphasise the urgent attention that is needed to maintain this vital service."
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Notes to editors:
For further information contact: Craig Smith at firstname.lastname@example.org / 07774 759 558.
Meals on Wheels – more than just a meal
The NACC is a longstanding campaigner for Meals on Wheels. As well as nutritious food, it offers friendly human interaction and wellbeing checks – vital ingredients that allow the vulnerable to live independently in their own homes. It keeps them nourished and hydrated with a nutritious daily meal (in many cases the only one they will have each day) and provides an essential preventative service that reduces costly malnutrition-related admissions to hospital that are adding to the terrible strain on the NHS. For many service users, Meals on Wheels is so much more than just a meal. It’s a social lifeline that eases the devastating effects of isolation and loneliness. The delivery of a meal brings regular human contact, which for many may be the only interaction they enjoy. It also provides much-needed wellbeing and safety checks, again, crucial for those that may not see anyone else during the day.
The National Association of Care Catering (NACC) unites, supports and represents everyone working in and associated with catering in the UK care sector. It is recognised as a respected source of information and opinion for the dynamic and growing area of care catering.
For more than 30 years, it has been committed to raising standards of care catering and championing the positive impact nutrition, hydration and mealtimes have on the physical and emotional health and wellbeing of older and vulnerable people in care settings.
About APSE and its role in this research
APSE is a not-for-profit organisation working with over 300 local councils throughout the UK. APSE campaigns for support to local authority frontline services and for fair funding to local councils.
The report ‘Meals on Wheels – More Than Just a Meal’ utilised data from local authorities from a range of sources including survey responses, desk-based research and case studies to outline the decline in Meals on Wheels Services’.
The recommendations within the report are those of the NACC as the research commissioners, and do not necessary reflect the more complex policy framework under which APSE operates across a range of frontline services.
The research was carried out by Vickie Hacking, Principal Advisor at APSE.
APSE press contact George Barton on email@example.com