EXCLUSIVE By STEVEN DOWNES
The Labor-led Croydon council will save the grand total of £24,000 a year by cutting its Meals on Wheels service to hundreds of vulnerable and elderly residents, Inside Croydon discovered.
As reported exclusively by this website earlier this week, the bankruptcy board has made the decision to terminate the service “stealthily.” The end of the service will result in the loss of 22 jobs and the closure of the contractor Apetito’s depot in the borough. Apetito had been delivering meals to frail and elderly residents of Croydon for 14 years.
According to official council figures, Apetito was visiting 206 Croydon residents every day, including throughout the covid pandemic lockdown period.
Sources working in the voluntary sector are concerned that the loss of the Meals on Wheels service will remove vital daily control for some of the borough’s most vulnerable residents.
“For many, meal delivery was the only contact they had with another person all day,” said a charity volunteer.
They certainly don’t think the council’s plan – to shift responsibility for caring for frail residents to voluntary groups, religious organizations and charities – will work. “Most clients who receive Meals on Wheels are bedridden or have very limited mobility and significant medical needs.
“There’s no way they can get into a lunch club.”
The council did not even pay for the meals of most of those who received the service. The majority of residents on the delivery tour paid £6.75 per meal, with the council meeting any VAT costs, which they – as a VAT-registered organization – were able to recover later.
Residents receiving Meals on Wheels received a letter from council in early March telling them they would have to make alternative arrangements.
“They were sent a list of places to find food and told to keep going,” said an angry carer who had seen the council’s letter. Inside Croydon.
“They just refrained from giving these vulnerable people the Deliveroo phone number.”
Voluntary organizations in the borough, some of which run lunch clubs, are expected to take over after the Labor-led council abandoned this vital community service.
“Letters were only sent to voluntary organizations last week,” according to another source. “Some of the ‘alternative providers’ weren’t even aware they were on the list.”
It wasn’t until this week that councilors-elect were told by council staff that the meals-on-wheels service was being cut.
“This is a non-statutory service and is not a service provided in most London boroughs,” read a council document.
“The decision to downgrade the service is to allow Adult Health and Social Care to provide MTFS [Medium Term Financial Strategy] savings targets which were agreed in Cabinet in February 2021.”
The briefing paper confirmed that ‘users of the service are responsible for fully charging their meals at £6.75 per meal’.
The cabinet member responsible for adult social care is Labor Councilor Janet Campbell. The cabinet members responsible for the ‘MTFS’ which is implementing Croydon’s ‘balanced budget’, through a £120m government bailout, are Stuart King and Callton Young.
All three were members of the council cabinet under Tony Newman or Hamida Ali which bankrupted the borough.
All three are running for council again on May 5, supporting the “New Direction” campaign in Val Shawcross’s bid to become mayor.
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