Meals on Wheels or Money For Supermarket Delivery?

Council considers more choice on meal options

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People who receive meals on wheels in Wandsworth could soon be offered the choice of getting food delivered by leading supermarkets like Sainsbury’s and Tesco.

Residents who use the council’s hot meals service would be offered money instead which they could use to pay the cost of having fresh food and produce delivered to their front door.

Some residents who have home helps could use their personal budgets to pay for meals to be freshly cooked in their homes while others may decide to purchase meals prepared by local restaurants. Others would be offered support and assistance to do light shopping themselves to local neighbourhood stores in order to keep them active and engaged.

People would still be able to order frozen ready-meals from the meals on wheels service if they wish, but the council is hoping to persuade others to choose from the nutritious options offered by supermarkets, neighbourhood food shops and local restaurants.

The development comes amid growing take up of personal budgets, which is putting people in the driving seat when it comes to choosing their own social care. Rather than telling them what services they can have, people are given the money direct so they can decide themselves what services they want and, just as importantly, who they want to provide them.

Adult social services spokesman Cllr Jim Maddan said:
“There is a huge amount of choice out there for people who want food delivered to their front door. All the big supermarkets offer this service and the range of meal choices and the quality of the foodstuffs is second to none.

“People can opt to have ready-made meals delivered to their front door, which can then be cooked very easily. They might instead choose to buy fresh ingredients which they can cook themselves or have cooked on their behalf. Alternatively they may even decide to enjoy meals with friends at their local restaurant or even do the shopping themselves with the help of a home carer or someone from the borough’s network of volunteers.

“Whatever they choose to do we can help with making the arrangements. Our aim is to encourage people to be able to enjoy a much wider range of options and not be restricted to the rather limited menus that are currently on offer.

“Under our proposals we would give those who are eligible for financial support money to help pay for this service, which they could then spend according to their own individual tastes. People who wish to remain with the council service would still be able order frozen meals, but would no longer be able to request pre-cooked meals.”

The council provides microwave ovens to people who choose to receive frozen meals and this could also be extended to those who previously received pre-cooked meals, if they meet financial eligibility rules. The proposed changes reflect falling public demand for a hot meals service. Over the past four years the numbers of people using the service has more than halved.

This decline in popularity is being attributed to the greater choices now available from supermarkets and other food retailers who offer delivery services and also to the increasing costs of the service.

A single pre-cooked meal delivery costs a total of £8.82. Although the council subsidises part of the cost, the remaining £4.75 must be met by the user themselves. This charge has increased in recent years because the overhead costs are having to be met by dwindling numbers of users. In comparison a single frozen meal delivery costs just £2.70.

Councillors on the adult social services scrutiny committee are expected to discuss the proposals at their meeting on November 7.

November 5, 2012