Million elderly Brits malnourished as third of councils cut ‘meals on wheels’ service
A third of all UK councils have scrapped ‘meals on wheels’ services to their elderly and vulnerable residents due government to spending cuts, putting senior citizens at risk of malnutrition and social isolation, research showed.
Over half expect further service reductions in the year ahead. A study by the British Association for Parenteral and Enteral Nutrition claims more than one million older people in the UK are malnourished.
The total number of meals provided by UK meals on wheels services and lunch clubs has dropped from 40 million to 19 million meals over the past ten years.
Half of all local authorities in the UK expect even further service reductions in the year ahead because social care budgets are being tightened and funding is being slashed, according to the National Association of Care Catering.
The Association says tens of thousands of elderly people living alone rely on the delivery of regular meals for nutrition, social interaction and safety checks.
The NACC National Chair, Neel Radia, said: “The Community Meals Service is a crucial preventative service that enables older people to live in their own homes for longer, whilst maintaining their physical and emotional wellbeing and reducing pressure on the NHS.”
“The abolition of community meals services is incredibly short-sighted and cuts a lifeline for many older people who can face social isolation and loneliness,” Radia added.
Dot Gibson, General Secretary of the National Pensioners Convention, says meals on wheels are a cost-effective lifeline for tens of thousands of older people.
“But it’s not just about the food,” said Gibson. “It’s about the personal contact, relationships and the wider benefit that the service brings by keeping in touch with people and maintaining their wellbeing.”
Community meals are not a statutory local government requirement, which means they are at risk of being cut as councils try to save money and focus on services they are legally obliged to provide.
Radia urged the government to enshrine community meals in law to guarantee councils protect services for older people.
Last month, research by the Local Government Association showed councils were forced to divert £900 million from other budgets in order to maintain current spending on adult social care services.