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Hampshire wants bigger role for meals-on-wheels
COUNTY chiefs are hoping to increase the take-up of meals-on-wheels by vulnerable pensioners – despite a price hike.
At present, only the most disabled who are assessed by social workers as being in “substantial” or “critical” need are eligible for the hot meals service.
The county council is reducing its eligibility criteria to make the volunteer-led service available to those aged 55-plus with lower level needs.
And it is going out to tender for companies to provide a more uniform service across the county, starting in April 2013.
Breakfasts and afternoon teas as well as midday meals could be delivered.
Volunteers who deliver the meals may be encouraged to spend more time with lonely pensioners to provide pastoral care.
Conservative council chiefs say there is a growing need to tackle malnutrition and dehydration among older people living in their own homes.
It is estimated that 40 per cent of elderly people admitted to hospital are malnourished, according to a council report.
Councillor Felicity Hindson, executive member for adult social care, said: “I am very aware of how valued the service is and how important a hot, nutritionally balanced meal is in keeping people well and active and of the vital role the service plays in keeping people in social contact.”
The council report said the move is part of the council’s prevention and early intervention policy.
However, the council also plans to increase the price of meals by 10p a year for the next four years from £3.40 in April 2012 to £3.90 by 2016.
Council figures show take-up of meals on wheels fell by 5.8 per cent in 2011-12 compared to the previous year.
The council’s spending on meals-on-wheels fell from £426,000 to £319,000 over the same period. The scheme is also funded by district councils and contributions from pensioners.
Managers estimate take-up could increase by 10 per cent a year after the eligibility criteria for the meals service is relaxed – and the council’s contribution rise to £481,000 by 2013-14.