Trust review will slash subsidised meals scheme
June 22, 2010
by Brónagh Murphy
plans are at an advanced stage to cut the subsidised meals scheme operated by the Southern Health and Social Care Trust, The Examiner has learned.
Commonly known as ‘Meals on Wheels’, the scheme provides daily home delivered cooked meals to the elderly and less-abled at a reduced cost. Currently the meals cost £4.50 with the Trust subsiding £3.00, thus leaving a balance of £1.50 to be paid by the recipient. However, as part of overall cost-cutting measures being implemented throughout the Health Service, the subsidised meals scheme is under threat.
A spokesperson for Southern Trust said it continues to review patients in receipt of home care packages and, in respect of the meals service, where it identifies ‘an alternative’ option other than provision by the Trust, then individuals ‘are expected to avail of this’.
The loss of this service will severely impact on the community’s most vulnerable people. Many elderly or disabled are simply unable to cook themselves a proper meal and, for them, the provision of this service is a lifeline. Faced with the significant added cost of continuing to receive meals at the full price, it is feared many will be unable to afford it.
Crossmaglen Councillor, Terry Hearty, says he has been contacted by a number of carers of the elderly and disabled who are extremely concerned, having been told that the subsidised meals will be cut from July.
Voicing his objection, Mr Hearty said: “Until now elderly or disabled people could get their dinner for £1.50 per day and the Health Trust would pay the balance of £3.00. Now the Trust intends to target the most vulnerable people and deprive them of a proper meal. This will mean an extra £18.00 per week out of their pension. This will mean that elderly people must decide between their dinner or oil for their heating.
“Everyone knows there must be cuts and accepts this, but this cutback will cost much more in the long run,” the councillor continued.
“If pensioners are trying to cut back on their meals or heating, they are more likely to end up in hospital, costing a lot more in the long run. Is it because the Trust sees our elderly and less-abled as an easy target?”
Mr Hearty says he will request that Newry and Mourne Council seeks an urgent meeting with the Health Trust to discuss the issue.
When contacted by The Examiner, a spokesperson for the Southern Health and Social Care Trust said: “The Southern Trust has no plans to cease providing a Meals Service as from July 2010. However, the Trust does continue to review individuals who are in receipt of a domiciliary care package and those in receipt of meals provision.
“In relation to meals specifically, where it is possible to identify an alternative for individuals to have their nutritional requirements met other than via a Trust provided meals service, then individuals are expected to avail of this.
“In some cases individuals may opt to continue receiving meals from a meals provider such as that used by the Trust, however in these cases individuals will incur the full cost of the meals.”