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A week left to rescue or destroy the crumbling care sector

More than 46,000 older people have been stripped of their ‘meals on wheels service’ in the last three years, representing yet another stark warning that the social care sector is threatening to crumble and crash.

The findings, released to mark Meals on Wheels Week by the Malnutrition Taskforce, showed that spending on this service for people aged 65 and over has dropped by a staggering 47%. This means that, in less than a decade, the number of people receiving meals on wheels has plunged by more than 80% – equivalent to 125,000 older people missing out.

These numbers also came, appropriately, just over a week before the chancellor unveils extra cuts to the sector in the Spending Review. Cuts to local authority budgets – expected to reach 30%, if they are modelled after the reductions being applied to the DCLG – will throw the provision of social care services out the window.

While part of this will mean the near-demise of meals on wheels services – which will, as a result, hike up prices to unaffordable levels for pensioners – the wider implications will trickle down the entire social care sector.

And with the health of older people threatened by reduced numbers of meals on wheels services, many will be pushed into hospitals as a result of malnourishment – joining those forced to A&E departments as care homes shut their doors or close down beds.

As Age UK and taskforce chair, Diane Jeffrey, said, closing down this service will prove a terrible false economy. It will make older people more vulnerable to illness and disease, demystifying the healthcare sector’s protected budget by piling unprecedented costs onto the NHS.

We now have a week left to see what decisions Whitehall will make on the future of the social care sector – and if the chancellor has listened to tireless calls to protect social care cash – just as winter begins to bite.


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