Fewer OAPs getting subsidised meals
The number of elderly people receiving subsidised community meals in parts of Northern Ireland has fallen sharply, it was claimed.
One provider is to withdraw from the Southern Health and Social Care Trust after alleging the volume of clients eligible for the service had been systematically cut back.
Domestic Care was delivering 4,300 food portions per week at its peak but that has dwindled to just 600. Its operation in the trust, which covers areas like Armagh, will end on July 14.
Chief executive Lesley Megarity said: "The trust has run down the service so much that it is no longer sustainable. This is a tragedy both for our staff and clients."
A Southern Trust spokeswoman said Domestic Care had sought a significant uplift in the cost of its meals, which the health body was unable to meet.
Domiciliary care at the trust includes personal help, essential domestic tasks, the provision of meals, support with medication and a respite service for relatives. It is available seven days a week from 7am to 10.30pm.
The trust has said an assessment of the needs of the person for whom the service is requested will be undertaken, in adult services, and eligibility criteria will be used. During the assessment, information will be provided about the care and support services available and any charges involved.
Ms Megarity, whose firm has provided meals to the vulnerable for almost 20 years, claimed people who formerly would have received community meals were being sent to unaffordable services.
"Sadly the trust has raised the access criteria for people to qualify for community meals so high that not a single older person has been referred to the service in the past year," the senior executive added.
"We are especially shocked that the access criteria has been changed without any public consultation. Helping people to live independent lives in their communities is a central plank of government policy - one for which, judging by their actions, the Southern Trust has scant regard."