Headlines: June 9th, 2009

A new study says meals on wheels services are being cut in many areas of the country and in others charges for the service are being increased as councils struggle with budgets. The report has been produced by home meals service, Oakhouse Foods, which says there is a growing trend away from council-run meals services.

Oakhouse quotes figures from the Local Government Association, showing councils rely on central government for about three-quarters of their funding, and says that without increased budgets many authorities are struggling to cope with rising demand. This, the company says, has resulted in some cases to a withdrawal of community meals services. Nationally, the number of meals being delivered annually has dropped from 40 million to 23 million in just a few years.

The report points to Rotherham, where the local council announced in March that it was ending its meals on wheels service. The decision led to an angry reaction from local people. Birmingham and Wiltshire Unitary councils are among others that have reviewed subsidised meals for the elderly and opted to recommend a number of preferred suppliers as alternatives. Councils such as Blaenau Gwent have raised process or tightened guidelines for eligibility.

Tony Blood, the founder of Oakhouse Foods, said: “We have seen a growing trend away from council-run services in recent years and we are delivering to more and more people who previously received meals on wheels. Many councils are simply unable to continue providing subsidised hot meals to local people in need and we are just glad we can offer an alternative.”