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 the British Association for Parenteral & Enteral Nutritio (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 the BDA, 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.”
BDA CEO, Liz Stockley added: “Nobody, of any age, should lack either access to enough food and fluid to keep them healthy or adequate support to enable them to eat and drink. And yet, this is the reality for over a million older people in the UK.
“Malnutrition can and is affecting all ages but its consequences are extremely concerning for older people, from increasing their risk of illness and infection to reducing their mobility and therefore affecting their independence and ability to carry out daily activities.
“This, of course, is a multi-faceted issue with many causes. The affordability of food, exacerbated by the cost-of-living crisis, funding constraints in social care, as well as the difficulty some older people have in accessing shops, can be supported by the likes of Meals on Wheels. This has been and should remain a critical lifeline for older people across the UK, who have the right to a nutritionally balanced meal.”