Catering association warns of dangers of cutting community meals services
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The National Association of Care Catering (NACC) has warned that elderly people in Britain face the risk of malnutrition and social isolation, whilst adding to the cost of an already struggling NHS, as government cuts hit community meals services.
Research published by the NACC shows that a third of councils no longer provide community meals – through meals on wheels, luncheon clubs and day centres – to elderly and vulnerable people living independently in their own homes. More than half expect further service reductions in the year ahead.
The NACC national chair, Neel Radia, has also called for government to look at making community meals a statutory responsibility for councils to protect services for older people. The NACC – supported by MPs, local authorities, caterers and campaigners such as the National Pensioners Convention – wants to highlight the pressure on meal services and the devastating affect their removal could have on the quality of life of the tens of thousands relying on the vital lifeline that provides nutritious meals, regular social interaction and safety checks for those in need.
Community meals are not statutory meaning they face considerable pressure as councils are forced to identify savings and protect services they are legally obliged to provide. Last month, research by the Local Government Association showed councils were obliged to divert £900m from other budgets simply to maintain current spending on adult social care services.
The NACC says the number of community meals served has dropped from 40 million a year ten years ago, to 19 million today. NACC warns that the number of people eligible for community meals has fallen as a result of adult social care funding cuts and changes to the eligibility assessment criteria.