Age UK anger at Norfolk meals on wheels 'choice'

Image caption Age UK believes the meals on wheels subsidy helps provide a vital service

Age UK has criticised Norfolk County Council for claiming that cuts to its meals on wheels service will give clients more choice.

The council currently subsidises meals on wheels but will withdraw the money later this year to try and save £1.2m.

Instead it plans to offer people "personal budgets" that will allow people to buy meal deliveries from a number of accredited organisations.

Phil Wells, from Age UK Norwich, said the choice is virtual rather than real.

"We need to focus on what real choice is," he said.

"Increasingly I think with health and social care we're going to find providers who choose their clients and not the other way round.

"Unless there's more supply of care than there is demand, choice becomes a virtual rather than a real thing.

"I see that potentially in this area of meals on wheels where it looks like people have the choice to go to the pub or go to a lunch club, the actual choices a real person has are far more limited than that."

Councillor David Harwood, cabinet member for adult social services at Norfolk County Council, said: "When people deliver the meals, the communication that the service users receive is seen as quite valuable.

"What we've done is try to enhance that and build into the service things like wellbeing checks.

"All those who want to provide the service will have the chance to be accredited through trading standards."

In an average week Age UK volunteers deliver 650 hot meals to homes in Norwich.

The changes to the meals on wheels service will be phased-in by Norfolk County Council during the next two years.

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