Meals-on-Wheels kitchen to be shut

A KITCHEN in Bognor Regis which delivers hundreds of meals a day to elderly and disabled people is to close.

The Meals-on-Wheels facility at Durban House in Durban Road is set to shut next month.

Based in West Sussex County Council premises, it delivers some 270 meals daily around Bognor and out to Emsworth, Southbourne, the Witterings, Slindon and Eartham, which are sorted by two cooks from previously-delivered meals.

It is one of six kitchens across West Sussex being closed by the Royal Voluntary Service (RVS) charity.

A big shake-up of the valued service will see just two kitchens remain – at Rustington and Crawley. These will handle 700 meals daily. Volunteers who deliver them will be expected to go into the customers’ homes to check they are well.

Occasional Meals-on-Wheels customer Catherine Morrish, 88, of Pagham, said: “My husband and I have used the service and we have found it very efficient.

“It’s a fantastic service and it seems a shame to cut it down. I would imagine having local kitchens is a big advantage and having people in the kitchens makes it a personal service. There’s a large number of volunteers involved as well.”

Diane Henderson, Age UK West Sussex’s director, said: “I understand the cost restrictions which everyone is working under at the moment. But that should not be allowed to override the quality and availability of services to older people.

“There’s a lot of evidence that having a hot meal gives more of a sense of well-being than taking a tin out of a cupboard or having a sandwich. It also seems ambitious to meet all the targets of the new service from just two kitchens, which will be serving such large areas.”

The drastic changes from November 19 will see new contractor Compass Group supply ready meals to the remaining kitchens.

Debbi Fair, the RVS’ head of operations for the south east, said the new service would provide its customers with food tailored to their needs and tastes.

“Those delivering the meals will also conduct a ‘safe and well’ check to ensure the older people who use the service have everything they need to stay happy, healthy and independent.”

A county council spokesman said helpers would still be important but would be used differently.