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END OF ROAD FOR MEALS ON WHEELS; Service bows out after 30 years with a casserole.

Byline: BARRY GIBSON

IT was the end of an era as the last Meals on Wheels were delivered to elderly people in Huddersfield.

After decades of good work, the Women's Royal Voluntary Service (WRVS) gave out its last meal yesterday.

Kirklees Council has abolished the Meals on Wheels service and replaced it with a new system to help vulnerable older people.

WRVS project manager George McMillan was upset to see the last six beef casseroles leave The Homestead in Almondbury yesterday.

He said: "It's a sad day. All our clients and their families were upset when they found out we wouldn't be providing the service any more."

WRVS has been contracted to deliver meals on wheels in Huddersfield for decades.

George said: "It goes back past 1980, I don't know when we started and I don't think Kirklees knows either."

WRVS delivered 4,772 meals to older people across Huddersfield in 2008 and 4,273 this year. But in June Kirklees announced that the service would end.

George said: "In the last three months it's gone down quite dramatically. We used to have four cars but we're down to one."

The council is replacing the subsidised meals, costing pounds 1.95 with a choice of two options. Older people can either pay pounds 9.25 a day for someone to cook food in their home - but they would have to buy the food themselves.

Or they can have a week's worth of frozen meals delivered to them and cook it themselves.

However, George thinks the Meals on Wheels system was better.

He said: "Our client's families felt quite secure knowing someone would be visiting their loved ones.

"Our volunteers didn't just go in with the meals, they picked up on other things in the house like gas leaks. A few clients have been found lying on the floor and we had to rush them to hospital.

"As for buying their own food, some of the clients aren't able to get out of their homes."

But a Kirklees Council spokesman said the new system meant older people would get "more personalised" service.

He said: "Over a number of years the demand for Meals on Wheels had dropped and it was clear that many people wanted a different type of service which gave them more choice and control over their lunch-time meal.

"The new style of home care service means we are now able to offer more personalised support to those people who need it.

"Following an assessment, some people have chosen to have fresh food prepared by staff from the home care service while others prefer food that is prepared by families and then heated up.

"The new service is more appropriate for meeting the health and social care needs of each individual. We provide a wide range of services to help people live independently in their own homes, and continually look for ways to further improve the quality and range of services."

Factfile. The idea of Meals on Wheels evolved during the Blitz, 65 years ago, when people lost their homes. The first meal was delivered to people living in Hemel Hempstead, Hertfordshire. Then, as now, it was members of the Womens Royal Voluntary Service who provided volunteers. The first meals were delivered in prams, with the food wrapped in straw bales to keep it warm

CAPTION(S):

FINAL DELIVERY: The last Meals on Wheels are loaded by Julie Horne (left) of the WRVS, project manager George McMillan and cook Margaret Lockwood (AC021009Bmeal-03.jpg)
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Publication:Huddersfield Daily Examiner (Huddersfield, England)
Date:Oct 3, 2009
Words:584
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