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Vital Meals on Wheels Service ‘Heading for UK-Wide Collapse’ Without Government Intervention – New Report

Published: 30th October 2023


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:
  • Ensure councils receive urgent funding to directly support the continuation of existing meals on wheels services including direct funding to reinstate meals on wheels services lost in recent years.
  • Consider Meals on Wheels a statutory responsibility to safeguard its future.
  • Consider other additional alternative support such as VAT relief for service providers and help with food and fuel inflation which has impacted on the financial viability of the service.
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. Removing a preventative service for the most vulnerable in our communities is short-sighted.

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.”

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