Meals on Wheels volunteers dropped

VOLUNTEERS in North Herts have been told they will not be needed to deliver a meals on wheels service to vulnerable people.

Hertfordshire Community Meals (HCM), which took over the running of the county-wide service five years ago, has announced that from June 29 it will no longer be using volunteers to deliver meals across the district with only paid staff being used for the role.

Volunteers were posted a letter explaining the decision but a Letchworth GC resident who has been volunteering for more than a decade is unhappy about the way it has been dealt with.

The man, who asked to remain anonymous, said: “I think it’s underhand the way it’s been handled. We went in the office and the office staff that were there were told not to say anything to us. People do it for the love of the job and it’s a great way of meeting people. If all they want is paid staff they’ll get youngsters who will just take the money.”

His partner added: “I think it was a bit insulting the way the it came from a letter. People are happy to do volunteer work on their own volition. It’s not going to be a satisfactory service because they need to pull their socks up - if you pay people they’ll just do it for the money and they’re not interested in the job.”

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The couple added that volunteers had felt more appreciated when the service was previously run by North Hertfordshire District Council, before Hertfordshire County Council took on the service and gave the contract to not-for-profit enterprise HCM.

The decision will bring North Herts in line with the rest of the county, with delivery in areas such as Stevenage already carried out solely by paid staff.

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In a letter addressed to volunteers, Sarah Wren, chief executive of HCM, said: “While the board has conclude that HCM should provide a wide range of volunteering opportunities at all our sites across Hertfordshire, it has agreed that the higher standard of training, welfare reporting, and food hygiene requirements mean that meal delivery should no longer be a role that is conducted by volunteers.”

Speaking to the Comet, she added: “We’ve got a celebration planned for them but it’s very hard to know how to do this and if we’ve got that wrong we’re very sorry. I’m very much hoping most of them will carry on as volunteers. It’s one of those things which is really difficult but it’s just the right thing for the clients and the right thing for volunteers as well.”

HCM hope that the volunteers will take up alternative roles such as befriending and gardening support, as well as encouraging them to apply for the paid positions.

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