Axeing of meals and wheels service branded ‘a disgrace’

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Unions have described the ending of subsidies for a meals on wheels service serving over 100 vulnerable and elderly people in Hull as a “disgrace.”

From December 1 the service delivered to 117 people by private firm apetito will stop, Hull Council has confirmed.

It comes as the council tries to find ways to make £15m savings from its adult social care budget by 2020.

The council said all those receiving meals on wheels would be contacted by Age UK “which will work with them to find a suitable alternative meal delivery.” They said the change was intended to get more people to access meals outside the home to reduce isolation.

But Unite convenor Pete Schofield said the reality was far more complicated: “How do you get people out, how do you transport them there? How are they going to pay? It is not as easy as they make out.”

Mr Schofield said the change would put the financial burden back on those who could ill afford it: “It used to be the idea that you paid into the system and got a bit back. The idea of the Big Society doesn’t work. We are not looking after our elderly.”

Adrian Kennett, Unison branch secretary, said it was a disgrace, adding: “It shows the experiment of outsourcing has not worked.”.

In a statement Hull Council said: “All of those people who currently receive a service from meals on wheels will be contacted by leading charity Age UK, which will work with them to find a suitable alternative meal delivery.

“With the support of Age UK and other partners, this change is intended to lead to more people accessing services outside their homes, increasing social contact within local communities and reducing isolation and loneliness.

“A number of the alternative providers within Hull also offer a more comprehensive service than meals on wheels, with packages including a hot meal and cold light meal or snack”.

The National Association of Care Catering said the service helped people maintain their independence and reduced reliance on family members - in the long term helping the council save money.

No one was available from apetito for a comment.