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Save Merthyr Meals On Wheels

Tuesday, February 25, 2014

GMB Lobby On Wednesday 26th Feb At Merthyr Tydfil Council Over Closure Of Meals On Wheels Service For The Elderly

Councillors should defer plan until a proper risk assessment can be done and proper answers can be given to the alternative business plan from unions and staff says GMB.

GMB is organizing a lobby of councillors on Wednesday 26th February at 5.30pm at the Merthyr Tydfil CBC Civic Offices over proposal from its social services officers to close down the meals on Wheels services within the Council. GMB is calling on the public to join the lobby against this unnecessary cut in service provision the elderly and vulnerable in Merthyr Tydfil.

On Wednesday 12 February 2014 elected Cabinet members of the Council agreed to endorse a proposal from its social services officers to close down the meals on wheels services within the Council.

The rationale given for this decision was that up to two thirds of the users of this service do not qualify as having a substantive and critical need and therefore, the Council have no statutory duty towards them and closing the service would save £96,000.

There is widespread opposition as a petition circulating for a brief period in the borough of Merthyr Tydfil obtained 1,913 signatories. That has been submitted to the Council, whilst over 1,800 people filled in the Council’s phase 1 questionnaire objecting to these proposed changes. That is over 3,700 against this measure.

Gareth Morgans, GMB Regional Organiser, said “This is the third year running that senior social services council officials have put this service up for closure to save money. Until now, local councillors have under scrutiny from GMB, have seen sense and rejected such proposals which are to their credit.

GMB and the staff of the Meals on Wheels service have put forward a revised business plan that we calculate that if the price increase was made from £2.90 to £3.50 per meal, and the making of two staff redundant who wish to leave the service, then the service could be run on a cost neutral basis.

We have canvassed the service users to ascertain who would continue to use the service with such a price increase before we came up with the business case, something the Council officials didn’t bother to do before they decided to close the service.

Our alternative business plan was rejected by the council officials as double counting as they alleged that we had distorted some figures. We reject this allegation entirely, as we used a lot of inside knowledge to put together the business plan. The Council so far has not disproved our figures face to face and pointed out where they think we have gone wrong. I wonder why?

Cabinet members commented that we can’t provide meals for people who don’t deserve them,(Even though the service users are paying for them) and that the Council is subsidising each meal by £3.50. In the same breath, the Deputy Leader of the Council has contradicted himself by saying that if numbers fall, then the service will lose even more money. If each meal is subsidised to the tune of £3.50, then less people having meals would cost less money not more? The Deputy Leaders maths simply  do not add up.

We believe that the people with substantive and critical needs who the Council have to provide meals for, are being subsidised by other residents who have not gone through a needs test evaluation, most of these elderly are too proud to have social services evaluating them so therefore, 150 of them will now lose the opportunity to receive a hot meal. For the 90 residents who have gone through a critical and substantive assessment, and who qualify for a meal provision, what happens to them?

When questioned, a senior social services manager could not answer this question. He indicated that “We (the Council) provide home care to these people and feed them in the mornings and evenings”. In essence what he is saying is “Let them eat toast” as the limited home care provision only mean a piece of toast or a sandwich can be made in the time that home carer has available i.e. 15 minutes. He then went onto to say that they hadn’t thought the matter through properly yet. Unbelievably, he raised the possibility that home carers could warm up ready- made meals that the service users could buy themselves from the supermarket.

Are the Council suggesting that the frail and elderly resort to microwave meals only, the same meals that we are getting health warnings about for the saturated fat and salt content and who are the home carers who are going to provide this service, as there is a proposal to outsource the home care service to the private sector? GMB will challenge such plans vigorously, when the time come).

We know that the private sector will use any available home carer to fulfil their contractual visit obligations. This could mean that the elderly service users are getting a variety of different carers throughout the day and carers who don’t have intimate knowledge of the needs of the service user such as special diets or having food that needs to be pureed and served spoon fed. There are obvious health and welfare implications here, which are of major concern to GMB members. Also, not all elderly and vulnerable people have freezers and microwave ovens. The question also arises whether service user with dementia be able to feed themselves. This is a recipe for disaster. The safe storage of food is critical to the elderly and how could this be guaranteed? Currently, the Meals on Wheels service provide a fresh, low fat low salt meal every day, where cooking temperatures are checked to ensure bacteria is eliminated through the cooking process. Can this be guaranteed under the Council’s new regime?

GMB and its sister trade union, Unison, are calling on the councillors to defer voting through this measure to close Meals on Wheels until a proper risk assessment can be done and proper answers can be given to the alternative business plan submitted by  GMB in conjunction with the Meals on Wheels staff.

We would like an objective critical look at how this service can be run. On our figures we believe 1,000 meals can be provided each week which protects 10 members of staff from redundancy for a total cost of £15,000 per year. That is 52,000 meals per year for £15,000. Good Value for money, we think.”

End

Contact: Gareth Morgans, GMB Regional Organiser on 07980 753 130 or 0144 3491959  GMB Press Office 07921 289 880 or 07974 251 823

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