Care catering campaigners are shining a spotlight on delivered meals services to highlight the important role it plays in vulnerable people’s lives. 

The National Association of Care Catering (NACC) is committed to protecting ‘Meals on Wheels’, and will be championing the service during a special week next month. 

Meals on Wheels Week will run from November 5-9 and the NACC is joining forces with the Association of Public Sector Excellence to research the state of the service. Repeating similar studies carried out in 2014 and 2016, which surveyed 211 UK top-tier councils, a clear picture will be painted of the availability of Meals on Wheels across the country. The results will be launched during Meals on Wheels Week. 

Neel Radia, the NACC’s national chair, said about the anticipated results: “Social care funding is declining and with it public services, so we fully expect to see a further reduction in the availability of Meals on Wheels services. We will use the results of this research to communicate the scale of the problem to the Government and public, sending a clear message that we need to do more to look after the vulnerable in our communities. 

A lifeline to many older, vulnerable people in the community, Meals on Wheels plays a crucial role in modern society, helping people live independently in their own homes for longer and counteracting loneliness and isolation. The preventative service can also relieve the pressure on an NHS under strain. While social care underfunding continues to put Meals on Wheels under threat of closure, the fight goes on!” 

Research conducted on behalf of the NACC for Meals on Wheels Week 2016 revealed the number of councils providing Meals on Wheels to vulnerable and older people living independently in their own homes dropped below 50% for the first time, with just 48% of authorities providing a service compared with 66% only two years prior. 

Case study 

Country Range Group customer David Barker runs MyChef, a family business providing meals at home services across Blackpool, Fylde and Wyre from a central kitchen in Blackpool. 

“We used to have contracts with local authorities but most of these have fizzled out and are no longer in existence, so we offer the service privately now,” he explains. “Having a ‘Meals on Wheels’ service makes a huge difference to our customers and our delivery driver is often the only person they will see that day. 

“We also offer a ‘safe and well’ check when we deliver meals. We send an email or text to a nominated person to say the meal has been delivered and the recipient was well, which in addition to providing peace of mind for relatives often living far away, saves the expense of a ‘pop in’ visit from social services. 

“Most of our customers don’t need support from carers, they’re reasonably independent but find it difficult getting out to do their food shopping and standing at the stove to cook it.” 

Customers select their meals from an extensive menu of fresh dishes a week in advance, which can tailored to suit their needs and dietary requirements. 

“I do think there is a lack of understanding from the government,” continues David, who is also the chair of NACC North. “Social services have cut their budgets but they need to look at the long-term benefits of keeping people out of hospital by keeping them well nourished and hydrated. It’s a preventative measure and an important community service.”