The National Association of Care Catering (NACC), in association with the charity Sustain, has today launched a collection of case studies that showcase innovative and alternative solutions to Meals on Wheels provision that have helped sustain the vital service in challenging economic circumstances.
Produced for Meals on Wheels Week 2018 held between 5-9 November the featured case studies are great examples of how NACC members across the UK have embraced different service models to enhance and expand their services, which provide a nutritional, physical, emotional and social lifeline for many elderly and vulnerable people across the country.
The inspirational service models have been highlighted because their expansion is bucking the trend of ongoing cuts and closures in Meals on Wheels service provision. NACC research released for Meals on Wheels Week 2018 revealed that 24 per cent of the UK’s local authorities have stopped offering a Meals on Wheels service since 2014, and just 42 per cent of local authorities now offer any kind of Meals on Wheels service to elderly and vulnerable people living in our communities due to the drastic reduction in Adult Social Care budgets.
The NACC will issue the case studies widely – including to all members of the House of Commons and House of Lords, Local Government Association and the Association of Directors of Adult Social Services and more – to encourage leaders and decision makers to think differently and creatively about how Meals on Wheels services are delivered and help avoid further closures of the vital service.
The services featured in the case study document are CATERed Meals on Wheels, Plymouth; HILS Meals on Wheels, Hertfordshire; LILS Meals on Wheels, London; Stars Kitchen Meals on Wheels, West Midlands; Dundee Meals on Wheels and West Sussex County Council Meals on Wheels.
Neel Radia, national chair of the NACC, said: “Over the past few years we’ve seen a most disturbing pattern of Meals on Wheels services being shut down across the UK by some local authorities as a short-term solution to budget cuts, combined with missed opportunities to develop sustainable alternatives.
“It’s fantastic that in these challenging economic circumstances we’re seeing inspirational examples of opportunity and innovation from providers that are determined to protect and expand their Meals on Wheels services. The case studies clearly show that there are sustainable alternatives to the traditional service model and we’re sharing this positive message as widely as possible.
“We believe that this could be the solution to safeguarding the service for future generations. We’re urging all local authorities and their partners to take inspiration and consider new approaches in their localities to protect this valuable service that enables our older population to live safely in their own homes and communities for longer.”
Meals on Wheels – more than just a meal
The Meals on Wheels service enables the elderly and vulnerable to live independently in their homes for longer. It keeps them nourished and hydrated with a nutritious daily meal (in many cases the only one they will have each day) and provides an essential preventative service that reduces costly malnutrition-related admissions to hospital that are adding to the terrible strain on the NHS.
For the majority of service users, Meals on Wheels is so much more than just a meal. It is a social lifeline that eases the devastating effects of isolation and loneliness. The delivery of a meal brings regular human contact, which for many may be the only interaction they enjoy. It also provides much-needed wellbeing and safety checks, again, crucial for those that may not see anyone else during the day.
For more information Meals on Wheels Week 2018 click here
H&C News Comment: We would like to congratulate the NACC and its members for the provision of this vital service that means so much to so many.
An example of how this service is provided is demonstrated through the case study below.
Background: CATERed is a local authority cooperative trading company in Plymouth. It is unique in the country in how it operates and supplies school meals and a Meals on Wheels service, prepared from locally-sourced, seasonal fresh food, for the county council. It was formed by schools and the council in April 2015.
In 2012/13, the Meals and Wheels service was transferred from adult social care to the then education catering service. At the time, the number of clients accessing the Meals on Wheels service was in decline, and labour and food costs were too high.
The education catering service management team was successfully delivering sustainable, seasonal school meals and was tasked with replicating this for older and vulnerable citizens. Offering similar meals for schools and Meals on Wheels create efficiencies in food procurement, storage and production. We use our procurement power to purchase fresh, local and seasonal food and ingredients for both school lunches and Meals on Wheels dishes, which are produced by school catering staff in school kitchens.
Now, working with a privately run residential home for elderly and sight impaired residents, we have moved the Meals on Wheels operation to a purpose-built kitchen. The residential home offers full and rent-free use of its on-site kitchen (we pay utilities and business rates), and in return we prepare a lunchtime meal for the residents’ restaurant, at a charge of £5+VAT per meal. It currently serves 25-30 residents per day and the additional income supports the Meals on Wheels service.
We also deliver meals to several private nurseries. The combined service maintains economies of scale on labour and allows for growth of the Meals on Wheels business without impacting on school food operations, which have seen significant increases in production since the introduction of Universal Infant Free School Meals.
About the service
115 meals delivered every day to a client list of 220.
Meals on Wheels are delivered 365 days a year by a small team of drivers in and around Plymouth. Lunch costs £5.50 for people in receipt of a care package and £6.60 for others.
Tea, a sandwich and a piece of cake or fruit, costs £2.75.
Clients receive five meals a week on average. There are no eligibility criteria to access the service, which enables it to attract a wider clientele, including private customers, as well as those receiving care and support.
Since the service started, the number of private purchase meals has increased. We survey our clients on an annual basis. In 2017, 80% of customers expressed good levels of satisfaction across a range of measures.
Making it work
We employ 14 part-time drivers and six kitchen staff, two admin officers and a supervisor. Protecting and growing the service has saved local jobs and secured increased hours and improved conditions for staff. The drivers use their own cars to deliver meals and are paid mileage expenses whilst the supervisor and administrator organise and cover for weekends and bank holidays themselves.
Prepared frozen meals are no longer used as the service found them not to be cost effective as staff are still needed to reheat, order and deliver the meals, and stock holding, and freezer storage was costly and problematic.
By using existing employees more efficiently, we have successfully lowered costs whilst delivering a higher quality fresh product. More than meals We value one-to-one contact between staff and clients. Drivers are able to carry out a welfare check, plate the meal and encourage people to eat, with a protocol to raise any serious concerns with next of kin, GP, or social worker.
When delivering meals to sheltered housing, we can also plate meals in the communal dining area. There is a small additional charge for this of 54p per head. We are also an active member of Food Plymouth a city-wide, cross-sector partnership of organizations and businesses working to support Plymouth’s journey to be a ‘Sustainable Food City’.
The partnership is led by the three main public sector bodies in the city: Plymouth City Council, Plymouth Community Healthcare, Plymouth University and is working to promote sustainable and healthy food as a powerful driver for promoting and enabling positive social, economic and environmental change. Plans for the future We are working to increase the number of meals served to private individuals, private care homes and lunch clubs.
The company is also exploring the potential to supply small local hospitals. Over the past year we have supplied meals to 3 extra care housing schemes. We would also like to develop school lunch clubs, where older people can eat alongside pupils, and we are discussing this with individual schools.
“We are not just a meal delivery service. Our hospitals are in a critical situation due to the number of older people being hospitalised through not eating nutritious meals and not having anybody to check they are safe and well. Local authorities aim to support older people to stay in their own homes for as long as possible. Meals on Wheels plays a vital role in this – all this for just the cost of a meal!” Brad Pearce, CATERed