Meals on Wheels services are being withdrawn by Camden Council. This is a statutory service and the Council have decided to take away this service from some of the most vulnerable people without any proper consultation with the clients, their carers or families, the trade unions and the current provider claims to have had minimal information about the future of this service.
Before any consultation with anyone, the Council has now started sending out Social Workers and Assessors with a questionnaire to the clients, and in all known cases, assessed that a daily hot meal is no longer necessary, and have advised clients to order their own shopping and heat the meals themselves, or get family or carer do take over shopping and cooking. The alternative advice is that they could get assessed as needing a carer 7 days a week, but given the cost rise of this service, it is likely that many would feel this is too expensive. What has not been looked into fully is the fact that many supermarkets do not do the specialist foods that our Meals service provide, such as gluten free, pureed or cultural-specific foods in enough variety or at all.
We understand that where anyone is assessed as needing someone to heat a meal, the client will be offered a carer (at an additional cost) and will be provided with a microwave and freezer for heating and storage.
What this does not take account of is that many of these clients were originally assessed as in need of a hot meal delivery by health professionals – but have GPs and health providers been consulted? I suspect not.
Many of the clients are not able to heat up food safely; forget to eat or need a daily reminder and encouragement to eat; and some would possibly use any spare money on anything other than food so are a danger to themselves.
Coupled with this, many of the clients of meals on wheels are also users of many of our Day centres which are now facing possible closure. With the prospect of both services closing this will just leave some of our most vulnerable residents without any hot meals or daily contact at all.
The current Meals on Wheels service provides a much needed daily lifeline. Staff know their clients and can report any health concerns, or call in the necessary help before leaving that client. In the recent snow, many Home Carers were unable to get out to clients, but the Meals service ensured the meal was delivered in those adverse conditions and could check the safety of those clients.
If someone is now ‘assessed’ as able to do weekly or fortnightly orders of food and store them in a freezer, is it acceptable that days could go past without anyone checking up on them. What would happen if someone has a fall and cannot report it?
Many clients cannot even get to open the door, so delivery staff hold keys for their properties. Is anyone going to entrust their door keys to a supermarket delivery department where a different person could come out each time or would they have a CRB (Criminal Records Bureau) check?
Camden should stop this closure now, otherwise the consequences could be tragic.
Phoebe Watkins Co-convenor HASC