Almost one in four (24%) UK councils have stopped offering meals on wheels since 2014, according to new research by the National Association of Care Catering (NACC).
The service, through the provision of a hot, nutritious meal, enables the elderly and vulnerable to live independently in their homes for longer. This can reduce pressure on social and health care services. Many of those using the service also think of it as a “social lifeline”.
However, just 42% of local authorities now offer any kind of meals on wheels service to elderly and vulnerable people. The survey also showed a steady decline in the provision of the services since 2014, when 66% of UK local authorities provided meals on wheels.
The number of councils subsidising the service financially has decreased from 80% in 2016 to 58% in 2018. NACC said the reductions are due to the cuts in adult social care budgets, which are estimated to be over £2 billion according to the Local Government Association.
NACC said its members and providers have found alternative approaches and models in order to keep running the local services. However, the association said more funding is needed.
“The government has claimed they will bring about the ‘end of austerity’, but vulnerable people are seeing services they depend on disappear because of the squeeze in local authorities’ budgets,” said
NACC national chair Neel Radia. “The government should safeguard meals on wheels services by making sure councils have the funding and resources necessary to provide them.”