ANGRY volunteers have blamed drastic changes to ‘meals on wheels’ for the collapse of the service which is a lifeline to many elderly housebound people across West Sussex.
The Royal Voluntary Service has announced it is quitting after admitting it is losing ‘significant amounts of money every day’.
But Peter Catchpole, West Sussex County Council’s cabinet member for adult social care and health, said the Royal Voluntary Service (RVS) had failed because ‘it got its sums wrong.’
Midhurst volunteer Priscilla Ayling said: “We are all very cross. They should never have changed the way it operated in the first place
“A lot of volunteers left because they didn’t want to continue with the new system and now they sometimes have to bring in paid drivers from Crawley. It’s awful the service is ending, because a lot of people depend on it. We are all very angry as our customers will suffer in the long run and we don’t know what will happen to the service.”
She said meals used to be cooked at Holmbush for the Midhurst area and now they came from Crawley and had to be fetched every day.
Volunteers have been told RVS will stop its service in October. The county council hopes to find another provider, but the future is uncertain.
Danny and Julie Kelly started their own ‘meals on wheels’ from their cafe in Selsey after anger at the change to the RVS system in 2013.
Danny said: “I think it is a disgrace how this whole fiasco has come about and it has been caused by the complete incompetence of the RVS chief executive who had to re-track on national TV and apologise for not listening.
“The only reason why it has cost the RVS money is his fault for not consulting volunteers in the beginning and telling them they were no longer required, then asking them to stay on.
“This whole thing will be causing stress and anxiety among the elderly and that is down to him.”
Mr Catchpole told a full county council meeting on Friday he did not believe the collapse had been caused by a cut in council funding.
“Clearly what happened was they got their sums wrong themselves. The price of the meal is where you increase your income, so the more meals you sell, the more income you get.
“What they couldn’t do, for lots of reasons, is expand their business. Therefore their income to cover wasn’t sufficient.”
He said the county council believed the ‘innovative and improved’ service proposed by the RVS in 2013 offered the ‘best possible provision at an affordable price’ and he was extremely disappointed the council’s association with the RVS was to end.