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More Than A Meal

The National Association of Care Catering champions nutritious food for older people, wherever they live. Here, the organisation’s chairman makes the case for preserving meals on wheels – a service in danger of disappearance.

For over 70 years meals on wheels services have enriched the lives of older people living in our communities. Originally set up in 1943 to deliver meals to individuals at home unable to purchase or prepare their own, today the service is as valid and vital as ever. It plays a crucial role in ensuring that vulnerable and older people receive a regular meal. For many, the service is a lifeline that keeps them nourished, socially independent, secure and in their own homes for longer.

Contrary to popular belief, the service is not established in law. There is no statutory obligation for county councils to provide meals on wheels and the fragility of the service has been exposed in the recent years of austerity, with councils either closing or restricting services to save money. As financial pressures continue to be put on local authorities, the valuable meals on wheels service remains in grave danger.

The National Association of Care Catering (NACC) stands firm in its stance that this short-term money-saving solution employed by councils is flawed. The long-term consequences are huge and must be understood before further damaging and irreversible cuts are made.

Meals on wheels are not a luxury. The service is crucial as it helps prevent more serious and costly health issues. Keeping older people at home, both nourished and hydrated, reduces

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malnutrition-related admissions to hospital, which cost the taxpayer considerably more than the meals on wheels service. Malnutrition costs the UK a staggering £13 billion a year, £7.3 billion of which is spent on older people. This is more than the cost of obesity.

For many, the meals on wheels service is a lifeline that keeps them nourished and in their own homes for longer.

The NACC’s national chairman, Neel Radia, spoke passionately about the need to protect the service: “The meals on wheels service is a crucial preventative service that enables older people to live in their own homes for longer, while maintaining their physical and emotional wellbeing and reducing pressure on the NHS. The non-statutory service has been hit hard by cuts to adult social services as councils struggle to make savings.

“The abolition of such services cuts a lifeline for many older people who can face social isolation and loneliness, as well as malnutrition. The delivery of a meal provides the regular friendly human contact that we all need, and the wellbeing and safety checks that older people require, particularly in the colder winter months.

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