Protest over threat to meals on wheels service

Karen BethellA NORTH Norfolk meals on wheels organiser has hit back at claims in a Norfolk County Council report that demand for the service has fallen due to lack of choice and poor quality and that expensive meals are often dished up hours after being cooked.Karen Bethell

A NORTH Norfolk meals on wheels organiser has hit back at claims in a Norfolk County Council report that demand for the service has fallen due to lack of choice and poor quality and that expensive meals are often dished up hours after being cooked.

Following a review which found problems including a shortage of volunteer delivery drivers and fewer people using the service, the council is considering ending its provision of meals on wheels and either commissioning a commercial service to provide discounted meals, or paying for a service to help only those with the greatest need.

A report before a meeting of an adult social services panel last Monday said the level and quality of meals on wheels varied greatly, with rural communities like north Norfolk worst off as food was often kept warm for hours before being eaten.

But Sheringham's WRVS meals on wheels co-ordinator Maureen Cook says the meals she and her team deliver are served up piping hot no more than an hour after being cooked by staff at Sheringham Primary School.


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'We were horrified when we heard about the report, especially when we know how much people appreciate what we do,' said Mrs Cook.

Mrs Cook, who has been

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co-ordinator for Sheringham and district for 16 years, leads a team

of 30 WRVS volunteers who take turns to deliver twice weekly meals to around a dozen elderly people in Sheringham and surrounding villages, including Beeston Regis, Aylmerton, West Beckham and Upper Sheringham.

Food is collected from the school, and kept warm in an insulated container before being delivered.

'The important thing is that as well as getting a freshly cooked meal, people are seeing someone every week who is concerned about their health and wellbeing, which you wouldn't get with a commercial service. The council should consult with people like me before they make decisions,' Mrs Cook added.

Retired Felbrigg Hall woodman Thomas Allen, 85, began paying for meals on wheels after his wife became seriously ill five years ago. Now a widower, he looks forward to volunteers' visits to his Aylmerton bungalow twice a week.

'I am very satisfied with the meals,' he said. 'I am quite isolated here so it is nice to know that if you had fallen and couldn't get up, there is somebody coming who could help.'

The current meals on wheels service covers half of Norfolk. The cost to the county council of providing the service is �367,000, with each meal, costing �3.12, effectively subsidised

by �1.80.

At last week's meeting, the adult social services overview and

scrutiny panel resolved to accept the findings of the review and requested

a further report on options - including working towards providing a meal service universally available across the county, that is flexible

and offers a diverse choice and ensures people are 'supported in appropriate ways to access food options that are healthy and enjoyable.'

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