As part of efforts to save £15.6 million Caerphilly County Borough Council’s ‘Meals on Wheels’ service could be scrapped.
The council describes the service as an “essential lifeline” and says its removal would have a high impact.
Around 190 customers receive Meals on Wheels in Caerphilly County Borough and around 125,000 meals are delivered annually.
The aim of the service is to help vulnerable members of the community maintain their independence.
If the cut goes ahead, only those covered by Section 117 aftercare would qualify for the service. At present, one person would be eligible.
Section 117 covers some people who have left hospital, after admission under The Mental Health Act 1983.
Leah Thomas, 31, from Markham, said: “I have an aunt who I pretty much solely care for. She does have a team of carers who check on her each day, but she also relies on Meals on Wheels for her dinner.
“Although she lives alone, she suffers from learning difficulties and cannot read or write and struggles to make warm meals but can make sandwiches and stuff like that.
“I cannot go down each day and make a meal for her. I work, have two young children, run a home and get no or hardly any help from other family members.”
Councillor Carl Cuss, the Cabinet Member for Social Care and Wellbeing, said cutting Meals on Wheels would have the biggest impact on the area’s most vulnerable residents.
He said: “I have concerns because there seems to be no light at the end of the tunnel.
“We are having to cut services every year to balance the budget and I am concerned for future services and the impact it will have on the public.”
Those working for Meals on Wheels have said their job is about more than feeding Caerphilly’s most vulnerable. It is also about looking out for customers, making sure they are coping at home.
“I have lost count of the amount of people I have found on the floor or needing help. We inform relatives, ambulances or social services. It’s more than just delivering a dinner.
“My nan had dinners for years. [Meals on Wheels] helped her stay in her own home a lot longer. Any concerns on visiting were reported.
“She had them for over 10 years and it meant she had a hot meal and was checked on during the day,” said one worker who wished to remain anonymous.
Some residents who are not opposed to the proposed cut have suggested other meal providers, such as Wiltshire Farm Foods, Oakhouse Foods and supermarket delivery services, are good alternatives.
Frozen meals from Wiltshire Farm Foods range between £3.09 and £5.99. Ready meals from Oakhouse Foods range between £3.60 and £5.99. Both services deliver meals to the people’s doors.
From the council’s Meals on Wheels service, a hot meal with dessert costs eligible customers £3.30. Frozen meals cost £3.30 and sandwiches cost £1.70. Those working for the service enter customer houses and can help with preparation.
It is the assistance and option of a hot meal that Carol Davies, 58, from Hengoed, values most about Meals on Wheels. Mrs Davies has an elderly neighbour who receives meals.
“She cannot lift a saucepan with hot water and food safely now, or even at all.
“She tried Wiltshire Farm Foods once; the meals were quite nice. They go in the freezer, so you could order so many a week.
“The downside for her was that she would have to put them in the oven or microwave herself and I don’t think she could be bothered, to be honest.
“It’s not that she is not capable, but she would not be mentally bothered to do it as she is on her own, frail, elderly and ill,” said Mrs Davies.
Caerphilly County Borough Council continues to face increasing financial pressures as a result of funding cuts from the Welsh Government, which in turn gets a large chunk of its money from the UK Government.
The feedback from a public consultation on the council cuts will be considered by councillors February.
Caerphilly Council leader Dave Poole said: “It’s heart-breaking that we are having to even consider some of these proposals, but we have a legal duty to deliver a balanced budget and therefore have no option.
“I can only reiterate that the time has come where some difficult decisions will need to be made.”