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.”

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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