EXCLUSIVE By STEVEN DOWNES
Croydon’s Labour-run council will save the grand total of £24,000 per year by cutting its Meals on Wheels service to hundreds of vulnerable and elderly residents, Inside Croydon has discovered.
As reported exclusively by this website earlier this week, the bankrupt council took the decision to end the service “by stealth”. The ending of the service will result in the loss of 22 jobs and the closure of contractor Apetito’s depot in the borough. Apetito had been delivering meals to frail and elderly residents in 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 fear that the loss of the Meals on Wheels service will remove a vital daily check on some of the borough’s most vulnerable residents.
“For many, the Meals on Wheels delivery was the only contact they have with another person all day long,” one charity volunteer said.
They certainly don’t think that the council’s plan – to pass the buck for caring for the frail residents to voluntary groups, religious organisations and charities – will work. “Most of the clients that get Meals on Wheels are bed-bound or have very limited mobility and extensive medical needs.
“There is no way they could access a lunch club.”
The council wasn’t even paying for the meals for most of those receiving the service. A majority of residents on the delivery round paid £6.75 per meal, with the council picking up any VAT charges, which they – as a VAT-registered organisation – were able to reclaim later.
Residents receiving Meals on Wheels received a letter from the council at the beginning of March, telling them they would need to make alternative arrangements.
“They were sent a list of where to get food and told to get on with it,” one angry care worker who had seen the council letter told Inside Croydon.
“They just stopped short of giving these vulnerable people the phone number for Deliveroo.”
Voluntary organisations in the borough, some of whom organise lunch clubs, are being expected to take up the slack after the Labour-run council abandons this vital community service.
“Letters have only been sent out to voluntary bodies in the last week,” according to another source. “Some of the ‘alternative providers’ were not even aware they were appearing on the list.”
It was not until this week that elected councillors were briefed by council staff on the axing of the Meals on Wheels service.
“This is a non-statutory service and is not a service delivered in most London boroughs,” reads a council document.
“The decision to decommission the service is to enable Adult Social Care and Health to deliver MTFS [Medium Term Financial Strategy] savings targets that were agreed at Cabinet in February 2021.”
The briefing document confirmed that, “Service users are responsible for the full charge of their meals at £6.75 per meal.”
The cabinet member responsible for Adult Social Care is Labour councillor Janet Campbell. The cabinet members responsible for the “MTFS” which is implementing Croydon’s “balanced budget”, thanks to a £120million government bail-out, 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 standing for election to the council again on May 5, supporting the “New Direction” campaign in Val Shawcross’s bid to become Mayor.
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