UK

Meals on wheels provision in England drops by 63% - Labour

An elderly lady receiving help from a nurse with her meal Image copyright BSIP, MAY/SCIENCE PHOTO LIBRARY
Image caption An elderly lady receiving help from a nurse with her meal

The number of vulnerable people receiving meals on wheels from English councils has more than halved in the last five years, Labour research shows.

The analysis, based on Freedom of Information requests, shows 109,000 people had meals delivered to them in 2014/15, down from 296,000 in 2009/10.

Labour estimates the drop equates to some 220,000 fewer people receiving the service nationally during that time.

The local government minister blamed cost-cutting decisions by councils.

But the Local Government Association (LGA) warned adult social care was in "crisis" due to a shortage in funding.

'A lifeline'

Some 84% of English councils with responsibility for delivering hot meals to vulnerable and elderly people replied to the FOI request from Labour.

The party said the results showed a 63% fall in the number of people receiving meals on wheels over five years.

The largest annual drop was recorded from 2013/14 to the current financial year, when the number of people receiving the service fell by 49% - from 214,306 to 108,856 - Labour's research suggested.

Although the current financial year is yet to end, the party said the figures were based on the number of people who were currently receiving meals on wheels.

Labour also claimed the cost of a single meal had risen by 22% under the coalition.

Liz Kendall, shadow minister for care and older people, said: "Having a decent meal and contact with someone at least once a day is a lifeline for many elderly people.

"We must end this false divide between social care services and the NHS because both are essential to keeping elderly people well and living independently in their own homes."

'Waste and inefficiency'

Local Government Minister Kris Hopkins said: "Councils should be providing meals on wheels to those who need it as they are responsible for protecting frontline services.

"They should also be keeping council tax down. There is far more scope for savings across the public sector by merging back offices, more joint working, cutting fraud, and embracing transparency to drive out waste and inefficiency."

But councillor Izzi Seccombe, who chairs the LGA's community wellbeing board, said: "Following the local government finance settlement, councils will have to find £2.6bn savings next year.

"At the same time, a rapidly growing elderly population is driving up the cost of adult social care by hundreds of millions of pounds each year.

"Adult social care funding is in crisis. If social care continues to be inadequately funded, some services will be tipped into failure and vulnerable people will be at risk of losing essential care."

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