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Case Study - Meals on Wheels


Before 2007, Meals on Wheels in Hertfordshire was provided by a wide range of organisations, via the ten district and borough councils. Some councils operated their own service, whilst others outsourced to private companies or charitable organisations. Provision was therefore inconsistent across the county, with differing frequency and reach between services. Price and quality were also highly variable.

As a result, the county council led a feasibility study that looked into the most effective, efficient, and sustainable method of providing a county-wide Meals on Wheels service. The outcome was a recommendation for a social enterprise model.

In 2007, Hertfordshire Community Meals (HCM) was established as a charitable social enterprise. Start-up funding from Hertfordshire County Council and a number of district councils was used to purchase fixed assets. In April 2015, HCM changed its name to Hertfordshire Independent Living Service (HILS) to reflect the broader range of independent living support services offered.

About the service
  • Up to 1800 meals delivered each day
Clients choose from a wide-ranging menu, offering five main course and four dessert options each day. They can also opt for a completely personalised menu and order meals to suit their dietary, cultural, or ethnic choices and requirements. Clients receive on average five meals a week.

As well as a main meal at lunchtime, HILS provides tea and breakfast that is delivered with lunch and put in the client’s fridge. Breakfast costs £2.75, lunch costs £4.45 and tea costs £3.25.

People can self-refer to the service, or they can be referred by family, friends, neighbours, or health or social care professionals. Clients that meet one of the following criteria receive the service at a subsidised rate: having difficulty preparing a meal safely; having a mental or physical disability; being unable to shop for food; or needing support due to recovery from hospitalisation or illness, carer illness or holiday, or bereavement.

HILS conducted a social return on investment study in 2012 that demonstrated that for every £1 invested in the core Meals on Wheels service, £5.28 of social value is generated.

Every year a client survey measures how much they value and enjoy the service. It also asks questions about its preventative benefits, such as reducing GP visits and supporting quicker recovery from ill health. Survey responses are very positive; for example, three-quarters (76%) said they visited their GP fewer times; more than four fifths (84%) felt less lonely; and almost all customers (97%) thought the service helped them remain in their own home.

Download the full Case Study as a PDF document.