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Agenda Item No.

 

THE VALE OF GLAMORGAN COUNCIL

 

CABINET: 23RD MARCH, 2015

 

REFERENCE FROM SCRUTINY COMMITTEE (SOCIAL CARE AND HEALTH): 2ND FEBRUARY, 2015

 

“839 REQUEST FOR CONSIDERATION OF MATTER (COUNCILLOR R.J. BERTIN) – THE MEALS ON WHEELS SERVICE (DSS) – 

 

In presenting the request, Councillor Bertin stated that recent reports in the press highlighted that the number of people receiving Meals on Wheels had dropped by half. It was therefore appropriate for the Scrutiny Committee to be provided with information regarding the numbers using the Meals on Wheels Service and the potential for future funding reductions. 

 

The Head of Adult Services, in response to the Request for Consideration, presented a report which advised that Meals on Wheels was a social care service that delivered hot meals to people at home which were assessed as being unable to undertake these tasks for themselves.  Within Barry, one Meals on Wheels route was currently facilitated through a Service Level Agreement with the Royal Voluntary Service.  Volunteers delivered the meals from Rondell House. 

 

At present there was no statutory requirement for the local authority to provide a Meals on Wheels Service.  However, the local authority must assess the needs of individuals to ensure that, where there eligible risk to independence, these risks were mitigated through the provision of services.  Those that experience risks associated with potential malnutrition would be eligible for a service to ensure that their needs were met.  This could be met in various ways and not just through the delivery of a hot meal by the local authority.  For example, frozen meal delivery services had proved to be popular.  The principle advantages were that individuals had greater choice over what and when they could eat, without any requirement for an assessment by Social Services.  Some schemes in other local authority areas would involve the provision of vouchers which could be used in local facilities such as cafes.  Additionally, a number of pension clubs and day services exist across the Vale of Glamorgan, providing not only meals but also an opportunity to engage with other people. 

 

Members noted that the use of the Meals on Wheels Service had reduced substantially across the United Kingdom.  Recent figures for England, reported following a Freedom of Information request, indicated that the number of elderly people receiving meals provided by local authorities had fallen in the last five years from 296,000 to around 109,000.  The position across Wales varied.  In 2013/14, six local authority areas did not provide a Meals on Wheels Service, with a further three indicating that they would discontinue it in 2014/15. 

 

Within the Vale of Glamorgan, the number of people that use the Meals on Wheels Service had reduced significantly.  The service was delivering approximately 112 meals per day in 2002 and now the figure was approximately 78.  At weekends, a reduced service would be in operation and would deliver approximately 40 meals to the central and eastern Vale.  The Meals on Wheels service at the furthest end of the western Vale was discontinued several years ago, following equipment failure in the local kitchen.  Alternative meal services were available.  Low demand levels and the additional distances involved in delivering to rural locations in the western Vale meant that recommencing the service in this area was likely to incur additional costs. 

 

The charge for a meal in the Vale of Glamorgan was £3.30 in 2013/14 and had risen to £4.10 in 2014/15.  This was to bring the charge closer to the costs of preparing and delivering meals.  Reductions for the numbers of meals provided meant that the expected rise in overall income through the price increase had not been fully realised.  Based on the existing level of use, the price per meal would need to rise by just over £1.00 for the service to become cost neutral. 

 

During 2013/14, the costs across Wales varied between £2.35 and £4.00.  In 2014/15, the cost varied between £2.60 and £5.00.  It was therefore evident that authorities across Wales were seeking to increase the income generated by the service to reduce their overall costs. 

 

In the Vale of Glamorgan, all Meals on Wheels were now prepared from the kitchen at Rondell House.  This had enabled the service to be sustainable to date, even though the number of deliveries had reduced.  However, the changing pattern of demand and the associated reduction in numbers meant that they would be prudent to initiative a more comprehensive review of the service to consider how the needs of the population could be best met in the future.  This would involve engaging with service users, carers and representative organisations to ascertain their wishes and views, including the merits of alternative models of provision. 

 

A Committee Member, in referring to the comprehensive review of the service, enquired as to when this was likely to take place.  The Head of Adult Services advised that this would depend upon where the Directorate wished to go with the Meals on Wheels Service, for example whether there was a need to find quick cost savings.  At the moment, the context of the review was too narrow to identify if the service would be viable at its current level in supporting around 80 individuals.  Further to this, the Director of Social Services commented that he understood the need for the Scrutiny Committee to be reassured but, as with all service matters and remodelling, there was a set process to be followed before any recommendations could be made which included, for example, engagement with service users. 

 

At this point, the Chairman recommended that a report in relation to the findings from the comprehensive review to be presented to the Scrutiny Committee before any formal decisions had been made. 

 

In referring to the decision to discontinue the service within parts of the Western Vale, the Committee was advised that this was as a result of a breakdown of the oven at the local kitchen.  This affected 23 service users, six of whom were able to make their own arrangements, while a further six agreed to be provided meals through an alternative model.  Four further clients had been in receipt of home care and thus their meal provision was provided as part of their care package, whilst for the remaining clients further information needed to be acquired.  It was noted that for those individuals who had received the alternative meal service positive feedback had been received and they had liked the flexibility and the choices offered by the changes.  Members were asked to note that there were a number of reasons as to why an alternative model might be better for the majority of people.  In terms of promotion of the Meals on Wheels Service, the Head of Adult Services advised that the service would encourage people to acquire services that would help them support themselves and he cited the Dinas Powys Luncheon Club as an example of this.  A traditional Meals on Wheels was not always the most appropriate way of meeting a person’s needs and could be fairly inflexible.  He advised that all Local Authorities in Wales offered an alternative Meals on Wheels Service provided through a commercial partner and he stated that he knew of six Local Authorities within Wales that did not provide any Meals on Wheels provision. 

 

The Director of Social Services stated that Council needed to be careful that it achieved value for money in all areas and it was important for the Council to consider how to make the best use of its resources.  Maintaining some services could potentially impact upon the budgets of other service areas and there was a need to consider alternative service delivery models where appropriate.

 

RECOMMENDED -

 

(1) T H A T the Scrutiny Committee notes the content of the report.

 

(2) T H A T the report be referred to Cabinet.

 

(3) T H A T a further report be received by the Scrutiny Committee detailing the outcomes and findings from the comprehensive review.

 

Reasons for recommendations

 

(1) To ensure that the Scrutiny Committee can exercise oversight of the service.

 

(2) In order to update Cabinet on the developments within the Meals on Wheels Service.

 

(3) To ensure that the Scrutiny Committee had effective oversight of decisions affecting the Meals on Wheels Service.”

 

Attached as Appendix - Report to Scrutiny Committee (Social Care and Health) - 2nd February, 2015