Frozen meals to replace freshly cooked for most vulnerable in society


GMB-CINGMB, the union for meals on wheels and home care staff, is asking the South Eastern Health and Social Care Trust to reconsider the proposal to end the daily meals service to the most vulnerable in society.

We are dismayed that the Trust is forging ahead with this proposal without full consultation with the people affected by these disgraceful plans says GMB.

The Trust has announced that they propose to deliver a batch of 14 frozen meals to replace the daily service from May 2015. The Trust covers the local government districts of Ards, North Down, Down and Lisburn.

GMB is urging the Trust to undertake a full consultation with those who receive the service and those who deliver the service.

Denise Walker, GMB Regional Organiser, said “GMB members are concerned that this is another penny pinching attack on the elderly.

We would like to know what research have the Trust conducted to ensure that those in receipt of these meals have adequate freezer capabilities to handle the meals? How many of those individuals have freezers large enough to accommodate 14 meals?

The service currently provides many vulnerable adults with not just a nutritious meal but the person delivering that food may for many be the only interaction they have on a daily basis and quite often is the first indication that the individual is struggling to cope or deteriorating at home.

We have already seen services reduced to care for the elderly at home with many requiring support, receiving care for a minimal 15 minutes at a time. Will a 15 minute time slot allow a carer to heat and serve that frozen meal?

We are dismayed that the Trust is forging ahead with this proposal without full consultation with the people affected by these disgraceful plans.

A society can be judged by the way in which it treats it’s most vulnerable. GMB members believe that if these changes are applied then we are failing as a society to protect our elderly citizens”.

Copy of Community Meals Statement 20/01/2015

The Trust has recently tendered its community meals service and has taken the decision to switch to a frozen meals service. This means that instead of a daily delivery of a cooked chilled meal, clients will receive a fortnightly deliver of 14 frozen meals which will be stored in a freezer.

It is extremely important to highlight that clients will continue to receive a nutritious meal and will benefit from a wider choice of options, delivered to their home. It is also important to differentiate between the current meal deliveries, which are carried out by drivers, and assistance with meals and personal care which is provided by health and social care staff and which is not affected by the new meals arrangement.

Director of Nursing and Older People’s Service Nicki Patterson has reacted strongly to MLA Fearghal McKinney’s assertion that the change “will put people in hospital in a weakened state”

“I would like to reassure people that the nutritional value of the meals is as good, if not better, than the current meals. If an individual needs further services, such as help with heating and eating meals, then that service is provided by our staff, and there will be no change.

“This is not about cutting the service. What we are doing is looking at ways of re-providing the service in a way which ensures improved value for money and sustainability for this service into the future, without compromising on the quality and choice of meals available for clients.

“It is unfortunate that this news broke while we are still engaged in the contract award process. Once it is complete, we will be talking to clients individually. All our existing clients will be reassessed, and over the next few months consideration will be given to individual needs and all issues taken into account.”

Requirements for the tender were carefully specified by experienced Trust staff and on the basis of feedback from service users. Meals are in line with strict dietetic guidance and part of the selection process included sampling of potential contractors meals.

The Trust will be working with the provider over the coming months, to showcase the excellent range of meals and dessert options which will be available. It is anticipated that the new service will be in place from May 2015.


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