Hostel closure threat to home meals service
ELDERLY and disabled people who rely on meals on wheels could be facing a crisis over Christmas. Beechridge Lodge Hostel in Woodland Way, Baldock, is closing in April 2007 and the residents of the hostel are not the only ones being removed as the Communit
ELDERLY and disabled people who rely on meals on wheels could be facing a crisis over Christmas.
Beechridge Lodge Hostel in Woodland Way, Baldock, is closing in April 2007 and the residents of the hostel are not the only ones being removed as the Community Meals Service, located on the premises, is being shut down.
The service includes meals on wheels, lunch clubs and hostel meals and supplies all of North Hertfordshire.
There has also been talk of changing the meals on wheels system so the food is delivered frozen and will have to be heated by residents instead of NHDC staff.
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Ten per cent meals is delivered frozen and 90 per cent delivered hot. Some areas receive a higher proportion of frozen meals, for example 40 per cent in Stevenage.
However those that have been assessed by Herts County Council and North Herts District Council as needing a hot service because they cannot cope with a frozen only service may lose out.
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Cllr Michael Muir does not want to see the meals on wheels service reduced and believes personal contact is important as, for some residents, the daily visit by the volunteer may be the only one they get.
He said: "The personal contact would be lost if the food was delivered frozen as a week's worth could be delivered at once."
The hostel meals service contributed significantly towards the overall cost of community meals so its loss results in higher costs for the meals on wheels service. This means that the current cost of £3.78 per meal is set to increase dramatically.
The council lists the most cost effective way of continuing the service as outsourcing, however, they also realise this may result in the loss or limited involvement of the 245 volunteers.
Over the last few months the council has been trying to make a decision about the future of the service, but Cllr Muir said that they would not have closed the hostel if there was nowhere else to provide the service.
Sally Bailey of North Herts Homes stated that meals on wheels may carry on using the kitchen facilities until an alternative is found.
As well as the loss of community meals, residents are also struggling to find new accommodation. Some have been living in the hostel expecting council accommodation in the near future and are now being told to look privately which is causing problems for those with no income.
North Hertfordshire Homes said in a statement: "Unfortunately, as many residents of Beechridge Lodge are unemployed (not incapacitated) they are unable to afford deposits. We have suggested they look for lodgings in a shared house."
A spokesman for North Herts District Council, said: "The main reasons for closure are that it does not meet the modern standards required for independent living or for client groups who have specialist support needs.
"Around two thirds of the residents have successfully moved on. The remaining residents have all been offered appointments to review their housing options and key workers, based at the hostel, are working with them on a daily basis to find the best solution.