Fears for vulnerable residents as meals on wheels is ended
Borough to end service after being unable to find a firm willing to take contract on
23 August, 2019 — By Briony Pickford
Labour group leader Cllr Adam Hug: “It is hugely disappointing Westminster has been unable to find an alternative meals on wheels provider’
THE meals on wheels service in Westminster is to be stopped after the council said it could not find a company willing to take the job on.
Private contractor Sodexo, which has been running the service, has told the council it will not be seeking to renew its contract from September 29. There are 120 people who use the service who will need to be assessed and make alternative arrangements.
Mehfuz Ahmed, chief executive of Age UK Westminster, a charity helping elderly people across the borough, said: “We get used to things and as soon as things go we get agitated; but as long as proper provisions are provided it will be OK. We just have to make sure that no one is left on their own.”
He added: “If someone is house-bound we have to make sure they are provided for. If the person doesn’t have a carer they have to make sure the meal is delivered to them. Appropriate provision has to be provided by the local authority.”
The council is considering paying for longer shifts for care workers so they can help with meal preparation. They say they will also provide a fridge, freezer or microwave for those who do not already have the means to store or cook meals. The council says it will work with community groups including community cafés and kitchens to find ways of offering a wider range of culturally appropriate meals.
However, Westminster’s Labour group said it was “disappointed” that the council had failed to find an alternative provider, despite the council leadership knowing Sodexo was due to pull out in March.
Labour group leader Cllr Adam Hug said: “It is hugely disappointing Westminster has been unable to find an alternative meals on wheels provider. Detailed planning for alternative arrangements should have started much earlier and, as a result, 120 of Westminster’s most vulnerable residents will no longer be getting an equivalent service that they have relied on.”
Cllr Heather Acton, cabinet member for public health, said: “We have tried to find the best alternatives for people using the meals on wheels service.
“Unfortunately, despite our best endeavours, including approaching like-for-like providers, none is prepared to work on such a small contract. We are pleased to see that many of the people have decided to take up the alternative suggestions we have made, which offer far greater choice than previously on offer.”
A Sodexo statement said: “Sodexo’s contract with Westminster council and Kensington & Chelsea council comes to an end on 29 September 2019 and there has been no request for us to rebid for the contract.
“Both councils are looking at a range of options and a member of the relevant adult social care team is contacting those who used the service to discuss their individual situation.”