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The voice of Scotland’s vibrant voluntary sector

Published by Scottish Council for Voluntary Organisations

TFN is published by the Scottish Council for Voluntary Organisations, Mansfield Traquair Centre, 15 Mansfield Place, Edinburgh, EH3 6BB. The Scottish Council for Voluntary Organisations (SCVO) is a Scottish Charitable Incorporated Organisation. Registration number SC003558.

Meals on wheels falls victim to council cuts

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Social isolation will increase as meals on wheels provision falls away, it has been warned

The amount of Scottish local authorities providing meals on wheels has dropped to below 60%.

Cuts are having a major impact on the service, which has been provided by a patchwork of mostly third sector groups since 1943.

Its proponents say it is an invaluable source not just of nutrition, but of social contact.

However, that could all be lost due to cuts.

Meals on wheels is so much more than just a meal - it's a vital service

In Scotland, 59% of local authorities provide the service, which is better than in England and Wales, where it has dropped to less than 50%.

Northern Ireland leads the way with 100% provision.

Neel Radia, the chair of the National Association of Care Catering, said this places vulnerable people in danger and puts a huge strain on the NHS.

He said: “This is a very worrying trend. Meals on wheels is so much more than just a meal - it's a vital preventative service, and prevention is better than cure. It helps reduce unnecessary malnutrition and malnutrition-related illnesses and is a lifeline to those who are alone and isolated with no support.

“Meals on Wheel services can include wellbeing and safety checks. It's about looking out for people in our communities who have contributed throughout their lives, and doing it in a human and caring way.

“We understand that local authorities have a problem with social care funding and we are not placing the blame solely with them. Council budgets are under immense pressure but withdrawing a service that can help keep someone out of hospital is a false economy in the long run because unnecessary hospital stays and bed blocking are a huge problem for the NHS.

“Some authorities do not take the nutritional side to Meals on Wheels seriously enough and we have even seen instances in the past where councils have stopped providing the service and directed people to fast food outlets on their website which is appalling.

“Nationally, budgets for health and social care have begun to be merged so that money can be spent more effectively. In Northern Ireland, where health and social care budgets have already been merged, the service coverage is 100%. Clearly in Northern Ireland, the benefits of hot food delivered to those in need of a little help to continue living in their own home is rightly recognised.

“We want to see meals on wheels services expand across the UK as more authorities are empowered to spend health and social care budgets in a coordinated way for the best long-term solution for taxpayers and customers.”