Meals on Wheels provides a nourishing meal every day, together with social contact for older people who otherwise may be isolated. It is more than just a meal; including wellbeing and safety checks, it is a lifeline to older people who live alone and may not see anyone else during the day. Around three hundred people on the Isle of Man currently rely on the service to help them stay living independently in their own homes. Eighty-four of the current service users are between the ages of 90 and 102 years old.
The service is commissioned by the Department of Health and Social Care. It has been provided under contract to the Department by Age Concern Isle of Man since 2008.
In their Commissioning Intentions for Older People on the Isle of Man 2016-21, published last year, the Department stated:
“The Meals on Wheels service…plays a vital role in providing social contact and health and social care surveillance, and has a positive influence on older people’s mental and physical health. The support provided enables older people to remain living independently at home… We will continue commissioning the Meals on Wheels service, re-tendering for the service in due course.”
Without consultation, the DHSC has now announced it will decommission the service on 12th January 2018.
Age Concern Isle of Man is both shocked by the Government’s sudden decision to cut the Meals on Wheels service, and alarmed that older people may lose out on vital care. Helen Southworth, Age Concern Isle of Man Chief Executive comments, “We are very worried that this decision will at best make life more difficult for our senior citizens and at worst could put some vulnerable older people at risk of malnutrition.
“Following on from the proposed prescription charges, this is yet another burden targeting the most vulnerable people in our community, people who have contributed to society and paid in throughout their working lives, and now need some help and support to be able to get a nourishing meal and be safe and well in their own homes.”
Age Concern believes that this decision is short sighted, in both financial and human terms. The people who get Meals on Wheels cannot manage to shop and cook for themselves. Some have just come out of Hospital. They all depend on someone providing them with a meal to keep them well nourished.
Mrs Southworth continues, “We cannot understand why the DHSC has decided to cut the Meals on Wheels service without consultation with service users, and we are shocked that they have decided to remove the service in the middle of January, in deepest winter.
“We have asked to be given the Government’s assessment of the impact this cut will have on vulnerable older people, and for information on what alternatives will be available for them, and we are disappointed that this has not yet been forthcoming.”
This service was recognised as vital last year, when the DHSC Commissioning Plan was published. After January 12th 2018 – only ten weeks away – vulnerable older people will still need prepared meals to help them live at home. On their behalf, Age Concern is asking the Government to urgently reconsider their decision not to commission a Meals on Wheels service.
Photo - Helen Southworth, Age Concern Isle of Man Chief Executive.