Agenda Item No 8
The Vale of Glamorgan Council
Scrutiny Committee (Social Care and Health): 1st February, 2016
Report of the Director of Social Services
The Meals on Wheels Service
Purpose of the Report
- To update Scrutiny Committee about how the Meals on Wheels Service is being delivered.
- To advise Scrutiny Committee about the rationale for considering alternative ways of meeting the nutritional needs of those who are eligible for care and support from social services, in response to changing levels of demand for the service.
- To update Scrutiny Committee on the progress made in reviewing the service.
- That Scrutiny Committee notes the content of this report.
- That Scrutiny Committee refers this report to Cabinet.
- That Scrutiny Committee notes the progress to date and receives further reports on potential alternative service models.
Reason for the Recommendations
1,2 &3 To ensure that Scrutiny Committee can exercise effective oversight of this service.
- This report is a follow-up report provided in response to an original request for consideration from Councillor Richard Bertin, who requested that the Committee receives information regarding the numbers using the service and potential future funding reductions.
- Meals on Wheels is a social care service delivering a hot meal at home to people who are assessed as being unable to undertake this task for themselves. In Barry, one route was previously made available through a service level agreement with the Royal Voluntary Service but this was discontinued by mutual consent. The volunteer service now operates within Rondel house, supporting people who attend to engage in activities.
- There is no statutory requirement for the local authority to provide a Meals on Wheels service. However, it must assess the needs of individual people in need and then ensure that, where there are eligible risks to independence, these risks are mitigated through the provision of services. Those who experience risks associated with potential malnutrition would be eligible for a service to ensure that their needs are met. This can be done in various ways and not just through the delivery of a hot meal by the local authority. For example, frozen meal delivery services have proved to be popular. The principal advantages of this approach are that individuals have greater choice over what and when they can eat, without any requirement for an assessment by social services. Some schemes in other local authority areas involve the provision of vouchers which can be used in local facilities such as cafés. Additionally, a number of luncheon clubs and day services exist across the Vale of Glamorgan. These provide not only a meal but also an opportunity to engage with other people, tackling loneliness and social isolation.
- Use of the Meals on Wheels service has reduced substantially across the United Kingdom. Figures for England, reported in LocalGov.co.uk following a Freedom of Information Request, indicate that the number of elderly people receiving meals provided by local authorities has fallen in the last five years from 296,000 to around 109,000 in 2014/15. The position across Wales varies. In 2013/14, six local authority areas did not provide a Meals on Wheels service; it has not been possible to obtain more up-to-date information.
Relevant Issues and Options
- In the Vale of Glamorgan, the number of people who use the Meals on Wheels service has remained similar since the figures were reported last year. The service was delivering approximately 78 meals then and the figure now is approximately 75. This is still a significant reduction from 112 meals per day provided in 2012. At weekends, a reduced service operates and approximately 29 meals are delivered to 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 are available. Low demand levels and the additional distances involved in delivering to rural locations in the Western Vale mean that restarting a service in this area is likely to incur additional cost.
- The charge for a meal in the Vale of Glamorgan was £3.30 in 2013/14 and rose to £4.10 in 2014/15. This was to bring the charge closer to the costs of preparing and delivering meals. Reductions in the number of meals provided mean that the expected rise in overall income through the price increase has not been fully realised. The current cost per meal to provide the service (unit cost) is £5.34 based upon the existing number of recipients. The charge to them remains unchanged from 2014/15. The expected charge required to make the service cost neutral is in the region of £6 per meal. This has been calculated to include an anticipated reduction in the numbers of meals provided.
- In 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 is evident that authorities across Wales are seeking to increase the income generated by the service to reduce their overall costs.
- A review of the service has been undertaken. This included consultation with existing recipients to ascertain their views regarding the current provision and to determine their knowledge and understanding of alternative delivery models. The consultation document and a copy of the questionnaire are attached at Appendix 1. The overall conclusions emerging from the review are that high levels of satisfaction with the service continue but that individuals are not well informed about alternative options for meals.
- Further analysis of the review information is underway. Consideration will need to be given to increasing the price of meals and the promotion of alternative meal options. It would be helpful to examine the feasibility of the service being provided in the future by organisations external to the Council. It is proposed, therefore, to initiate some market testing to determine the extent of interest in this across Vale localities. Ideally, this would include exploring whether services can be made available across the whole of the Vale of Glamorgan.
Resource Implications (Financial and Employment)
- In line with previous budget plans for the Directorate, officers have has sought to make the Meals on Wheels service cost neutral. However, Adult Services are now expected to realise savings of £970k from 2017-2020 through reshaping services. Savings targets have been set within Adult Services to support the delivery of this £970k saving. The target figure for Meals on Wheels is £30k. The available budget for 2014/15 was £13,188 and the service cost £46,244 (i.e. a £33,056 overspend).
Sustainability and Climate Change Implications
- The provision of an individual hot meal delivered by a vehicle involves the use of fuel. Alternative options exist which would require fewer deliveries.
Legal Implications (to Include Human Rights Implications)
- There are no legal implications as a direct result of this report and its recommendations.
Crime and Disorder Implications
- There are no crime and disorder implications as a direct result of this report.
Equal Opportunities Implications (to include Welsh Language issues)
- There are no equal opportunities implications as a direct result of this report. An Equality Impact Assessment would be completed should any significant change be recommended when the review of the service has been completed.
- This report contributes to the following corporate objective: "working with partners to meet the diverse needs of our residents in ways that will safeguard and support those who are most vulnerable and in greatest need; help people to keep fit and healthy; and increase social cohesion and equality of opportunity for all."
Policy Framework and Budget
- This is a matter for executive decision.
Consultation (including Ward Member Consultation)
- This is an issue for the whole of the Vale of Glamorgan and so there has been no consultation of individual ward Members. Any future changes to the service will require engaging with service users, carers and representative organisations to ascertain their wishes and views, including the merits of alternative models of provision
Relevant Scrutiny Committee
- Social Care and Health.
Report to Scrutiny Committee on 2nd February, 2015.
Lance Carver, Head of Adult Services
Corporate Management Team
Philip Evans, Director of Social Services