End of meals on wheels? Four-year losses spark Havering Council review

meals on wheels

meals on wheels - Credit: Archant

Havering’s meals on wheels service could be binned after the council revealed it has been operating at a loss for four years.

The authority has launched a three-month public consultation on the future of its service, which delivers hot food to 268 elderly people in the borough – along with 74 in Barking and Dagenham.

The number of meals dished out has reduced significantly in recent years, from 164,318 in 2011/12 to 123,064 in 2014/15, reducing the council’s income by £175,770, from £760,794 to £585,024.

Cllr Wendy Brice-Thompson, cabinet member for adult services and health, believes the “old-fashioned” service may be past its sell-by-date as customers turn to supermarket home deliveries or other meal-providing organisations.

“There’s so much choice now,” she said. “We charge £5.25 for a meal but you can get one cheaper than that elsewhere. We want to hear from everyone because we don’t know what we’re going to do.”


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She said if the service were to continue, it would be forced to up the price of a hot meal to a whopping £8.20 to cover costs and could even become a fortnightly delivery of frozen meals.

Tony Bloomfield, director of communications at Tapestry – formerly Age Concern – understands why the service is being reviewed, but hopes it will continue.

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Tapestry launched meals on wheels in the area in 1969, when it was Hornchurch Old People’s Welfare Association and in the ‘70s delivered as many as 22,570 meals a year.

“We host a peer support club for people with dementia,” said Tony. “That’s About 30/40 people a day. We pick them up and take them to one of our centres, and the food is supplied by meals on wheels.

“I can understand it needs to be reviewed – cuts dominate every meeting in adult social services. Havering actually has a very well developed service.

“But it’s about more than food. It’s a really valuable service – it’s about contact with people. The drivers may be the only person they see that day, so it’s important to form a connection.

“If it goes private they might get a different driver every day, so we would need reassurance the right organisation is doing it.

“There was a need for meals on wheels in the 60s and, if anything, it’s greater now.”

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