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Elderly could be faced with ‘stark choice over eating or heating’ in winter months claims Labour

Politics / Sun 1st Jun 2014 at 06:59am

mealsESSEX County Council has announced that a 6 week consultation will be conducted to understand the views of both existing service users and Essex residents on the proposal to remove the subsidy currently paid by the council to the Meals On Wheels service.

The contribution that all 1003 service users currently pay for the hot meals they receive is set at £3.95 for each meal with ECC paying an additional subsidy of 84p to cover the full cost of each meal.

A previous policy review of the Meals On Wheels service carried out in 2011 by the Community Wellbeing and Older People Committee found that well over 80% of residents that used the Meals On Wheels service were aged 76 and over .

Current delivery partner, Sodexo, has continued provision of the Meals On Wheels service, which includes the delivery of hot meals directly to residents with the addition of a ‘safe and well’ check where delivery drivers check on the well-being of customers . These checks can act as an ‘early warning system’ as it means vulnerable people receive frequent visits allowing for a preventative measure to be in place to ‘avoid more costly admissions to hospital’ .

In response to the announcement, Labour’s Suzy Stride said:

“If the 84p subsidy for each hot meal were to be passed on to the resident, a user who receives a free meal 5 days a week all year round from this service would need to find an extra £218 a year to continue receiving meals. This is on top of careful spending of winter fuel payments which are vital for the most vulnerable elderly residents in Essex.

“If adopted by the Conservative Administration, this cruel policy could force pensioners to make a choice in some cases of whether to pay the increase for a hot meal or to break into their annual heating allowances which would take a large chunk of their heating money. It could be a stark choice of whether they eat or heat their home in winter months.”

Councillor Mike Danvers County Councillor for Harlow North said;

“Once again the Tories are making the elderly choose between heating and eating. Let those councillors pay for their free meals and make up the spending that way There are revenue spends such as free Members lunches which could be used to help reduce the burden of passing the cost on to this vulnerable group of residents . The annual spend (£31,198) by the council on Member lunches alone could easily subsidise every user of Meals On Wheels in the Harlow District who receives a hot meal 5 times a week “

“It was only last week that the council had stated publically that they were in a better position financially to stop the school patrol crossing cuts – I urge the Conservative Administration to think carefully about carrying out this painful policy”.

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