Scotland

Meals on wheels service is phased out

Elderly man eating Image copyright Getty Images

The meals on wheels service has been withdrawn from many parts of Scotland - and will cease entirely by the end of the year.

The deliveries, by volunteers from the Royal Voluntary Service (RVS), have been a lifeline to thousands of elderly and disabled people.

The service has now ended in Moray, Argyll and Bute, East Dunbartonshire and West Dunbartonshire.

RVS said it could no longer ensure the service is safe and sustainable.

Meals on wheels started in the 1940s and expanded rapidly after the end of World War Two but was never made a statutory entitlement.

In recent years an increasing number of councils throughout the UK have withdrawn subsidies, and the service operated by the RVS has dwindled.

As it is withdrawn, alternative services are being offered - including lunch clubs, frozen meal deliveries and a variety of home care packages.

Image copyright PAthe News
Image caption The meals on wheels service began in the UK in the 1940s
Image caption John Keenleyside says he will miss meeting the volunteers

John Keenleyside from Forres used to be a meals on wheels volunteer.

Now in his 89th year, he has been benefiting from the service. He believes it will be missed for a number of reasons.

"It's good because the food is quite good and prepared for you," he said. "It saves you work.

"But the important aspect is having a different face coming into the home and giving you local news, weather conditions and things like that."

Image caption Volunteers like Kirsteen Mitcalfe worry that not everyone will find a suitable alternative

Many of the people who have been delivering meals as RVS volunteers, are doubtful the alternative provision being made will be right for everyone.

Kirsteen Mitcalfe has been a volunteer for about 30 years.

She said: "I can't see that it will be as good.

"It's all very well saying that they can go to a community lunch but... there are several people who are housebound that can't go out to anything in the community."

She added: "They get a nice meal three times a week at the moment and that's no longer going to happen."

Image caption RVS director Sam Ward says the decision has been forced on them

RVS believes a lack of support from local authorities has forced them to cut services.

Director Sam Ward said: "We lost a number of the services for a number of reasons. Some of them it's because the local authorities have gone out to tender and commercial companies have come into that space and taken those services.

"In other cases, because of all the pressures on the finances of local authorities, they've decided that they aren't going to actually continue with these contracts.

"That means over a period of the last few years we've gone from having over 80 services - we're just down to seven in Scotland and only 15 across the whole of the UK."

She added: "It's just become more and more difficult for us to actually support these services and help people deliver them safely on the ground."

Alternative choices

Health and Social Care Moray said everyone affected would get help finding alternative provision.

In a statement, it said: "All current recipients of Meals on Wheels have been informed that RVS will not be renewing its contract to deliver the service in Moray at the end of this month.

"We are supporting clients to consider the alternative choices available to them such as lunch clubs in their community, fresh or frozen meals from local shops and supermarkets, and frozen meal delivery services.

"For those with critical or substantial care and support needs, who are already in receipt of a package of care, we are working with their existing care provider to review and access their needs for support to ensure they have regular access to a hot meal. Care packages will then be amended as required."

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