Meals on wheels for frail and elderly people sharply decline by more than 200,000

The service is used by those who have mobility problems

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The Independent Online

The number of meals-on-wheels provided by councils in England for vulnerable and elderly people has plummeted by 63% under the Coalition government compared to five years ago, according to the Labour Party.

Around 296,000 people were receiving food from, or commissioned by, local authorities in the final year of the Labour government but the number has sharply declined to 108,856 this year, research carried out by the party shows.

A shortage in funds from central government run by the Conservatives and Liberal Democrats meant that around 220,000 frail and vulnerable people who relied on sustenance being delivered to their doors were not receiving the care they deserved amid an adult social care “crisis”, the Local Government Association said.

Liz Kendall, shadow minister for care and older people, said: “Having a decent meal and contact with someone at least once a day is a lifeline for many elderly people.

“Removing this support isn’t good for them and it’s a false economy too, if their health suffers and they struggle to cope, and they end up having to go into hospital or a care home.”

The largest yearly drop was recorded from 2013/2014 to the current financial year when the number of people receiving the assistance fell by 49% to the current number from 214,306. The complete findings are expected to be available at the end of the fiscal year in April.

The research findings are based on requests to English councils made under the Freedom of Information Act by the party with 84% of the local authorities having responded.

The cost of a single meal has risen by 22% under the Coalition, according to the Labour Party and hospital admissions have risen astronomically due to cuts in adult social care.

 “We must end this false divide between social care services and the NHS because both are essential to keeping elderly people well and living independently in their own homes,” Ms Kendall added.

Cllr Izzi Seccombe, who chairs the LGA’s community well being board, said: “The LGA has long been warning the services that elderly and vulnerable people rely on, including meals on wheels and lunch clubs, are coming under increasing threat.

“Councils are trying to protect the elderly from the impact of cuts, often at the expense of other services. But there is simply not enough money in the system to provide the level and quality of care that people deserve.

“Adult social care funding is in crisis. It will be vital that the next spending review puts it on a sustainable financial footing. If social care continues to be inadequately funded, some services will be tipped into failure and vulnerable people will be at risk of losing essential care.”