Changes to Horsham’s Meals on Wheels service defended by county council

Meals-on-wheels volunteers are unhappy about a change to their role
Meals-on-wheels volunteers are unhappy about a change to their role

A Horsham volunteer’s claim that changes to the Meals on Wheels service are ‘a disaster waiting to happen’ has been defended by West Sussex County Council.

‘A disaster waiting to happen’ is how the volunteer described a deal struck between the county council and the Royal Voluntary Service (RVS).

The changes, which will come into place in the middle of November, involve three professional drivers based in Crawley delivering meals to about 100 elderly people in the Horsham district that benefit from the service.

A spokesperson for the county council said: “The changes were introduced by the RVS when they won the new Meals on Wheels contract.

“Volunteers are very much at the heart of this new service. They are not being asked to act as social workers or to replace social workers.

“While volunteers will not be delivering meals, as they have done in the past, they will be asked to continue to visit customers every day as part of the service’s Safe and Well Checks.”

The volunteer, who did not wish to be named, told the County Times that he believed his role would change as part of the new contract.

He said: “It is a disaster waiting to happen.

“What they are asking us to do is act as unpaid social workers for the county council.

“There are 60 volunteers there and we all give up a lot of our time, and they have treated the volunteers very shabbily.”

The RVS volunteers participating in the Meals on Wheels service, catering for elderly or vulnerable people in the Horsham district are currently based in Amberley Road, Horsham.

Under the current system, the volunteers heat up meals at their base and distribute it to those who are part of the Meals on Wheels plan.

Debbi Fair, Royal Voluntary Service head of operations for East and South East, said: “We’re sorry that there are some volunteers who are unhappy with the proposed changes to the service.

“The opinion of our volunteers is very important to us and we will continue to communicate with them and hold meetings across the area to make sure anyone who has any concerns about the new service can discuss them with us.”