Preventing malnutrition in later life

Meals on Wheels – a cherished service under threat

It’s Meals on Wheels Week this week. Neel Radia, the National Chair of the National Association of Care Catering (the organisation behind the Week), explains why the awareness Week is now more crucial than ever.

Meals on Wheels is a great British institution. Originally set up in 1943 to deliver meals to individuals at home unable to purchase or prepare their own, many of us won’t remember a time when it didn’t exist.

Today, the service is as vital and valid as ever.  It enables the vulnerable and elderly to live independently in their own homes for longer, keeping them nourished and hydrated with a nutritious daily meal (in many cases the only one they will have each day), and providing an essential preventative service that reduces costly malnutrition-related admissions to hospital.

It is, however, so much more than just a meal. It is, for many, a social life line. The delivery of a meal brings regular human contact that eases the devastating isolation and loneliness many elderly endure. It also provides much-needed wellbeing and safety checks, crucial for those that may not see anyone else during the day.

A casualty of austerity measures

Sadly, the valuable and cherished service is under serious threat. Meals on Wheels is not a statutory service protected by law and it has been a casualty of austerity measures as local authorities are forced to close or restrict services to save money.

This time last year, one third of the 211 UK top-tier councils confirmed that they no longer provide a service, with over half expecting to see further reductions. And, in the past decade, despite the elderly population increasing, the number of meals served in the community has more than halved.

This is fundamentally wrong and cannot be allowed to continue. We must not permit this incredible service that enriches the lives of so many, to be consigned to the history books. And, that is why Meals on Wheels Week is so very important.

The Week itself

Meals on Wheels logoMeals on Wheels Week is the focal point of our ongoing campaign to protect Meals on Wheels services. It spotlights the overwhelming importance of the service in our communities to everyone – from government and local authorities to businesses, associations, media and the general public.

Our message is very clear.  To uphold a social care policy that encourages the elderly to live in their own homes in the community, with good physical and emotional wellbeing, the Meals on Wheels service is paramount.  It must be protected and we believe that it must be a statutory responsibility across the UK.

Our lifestyles and communities may be very different to 70 years ago when Meals on Wheels first began, but it remains that we all have a responsibility to care for the elderly in our communities. After all, they are our grandparents, parents, loved ones, neighbours, and one day, ourselves.

Get involved

So please do join us to help protect this vital lifeline for future generations. Click here to find out how you can get involved.

To understand what Meals on Wheels really means to those who depend on the service, take a look at our videos featuring meal recipients on twitter that clearly show why Meals on Wheels really is so much more than just a meal. A new video will be shown daily at 10am on @nacccatercare until Friday 20 November.

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Malnutrition Task Force
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