Councils across England are currently drawing up their budgets for 2021/2022. It's vital that they include funding for older people to be able to access at least one good meal per day in their own homes.
Even before the Covid-19 pandemic, it was estimated that more than 1.3 million people over the age of 65 were malnourished or at risk of malnutrition, with over 90% of these living in the community. Malnutrition makes people more susceptible to physical and mental ill-health, extends hospital stays and makes re-admission more likely – malnutrition accounts for nearly £20bn of health and social care spending in England. Compounding this, the Covid-19 pandemic has made it difficult for many people to access good food daily, not least older people and disabled people, who were already at high risk of malnutrition.
Having a robust meals on wheels service locally is a vital cornerstone to tackling the issue.
Meals on wheels services provide multiple benefits to individuals and communities in numerous ways as they:
- Are more than just a meal: through welfare checks, daily social contact, and complimentary services including active aging advice and classes, meals on wheels services act as vital lifeline to people at risk of isolation or malnutrition.
- Are a preventative and cost-saving service in the long-term: these services reduce numbers of GP visits, emergency hospital visits for falls or ill-health, and increase the number of years that older residents will retain independence in their homes. Where preventative support such as meals on wheels can be accessed early enough, the need for more costly interventions can be reduced significantly.
- Increase community resilience to times of crisis: Meals on wheels services can be ‘scaled up’ to meet increased need for instance when weather is bad during the winter. Indeed during the initial Covid-19 lockdown many services saw substantial spikes in demand with many scaling up rapidly to meet this.
- Can create good jobs for local communities: With proper investment, these services create good jobs and in particular for people most at risk of unemployment as a result of the pandemic.
Despite all of this, meals on wheels services have been cut in many areas in recent years - according to the National Association of Care Catering meals on wheels service across the country have reduced by at least 42%. Now more than ever we must support older and disabled people to be able to stay healthy, safe and nourished in their own homes.
Published 4 Nov 2020
Older People’s Food Campaign: Meals on wheels services support thousands of older people every day to stay independent in their own homes and enrich their lives.
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