People Asked to Shape Future Meals Service

A CONSULTATION launched this week aims to identify ways in which a remodelled meals service for older people can be combined with new opportunities for social interaction.

Last week the British Red Cross praised Reading Borough Council and the Health and Wellbeing Board for its work to tackle social isolation in the town.

The expiry of the current catering contract for extra care and day service schemes in Reading now offers the Council the opportunity to look again at how it provides meals for older people living and visiting at Cedar Court, Oak Tree House and the Maples Day service. A remodelled service will combine meals with new opportunities for social interaction. The aim is to use consultation feedback to help shape a service individually tailored to people’s needs.

As part of a wide ranging consultation, the Council is now asking for feedback from people who use the service, their families and friends, carers and care staff, and other stakeholders such as Age UK, to help identify a range of options for a remodelled future service.

The current catering contract sees around 70 meals a week provided at extra care schemes at Cedar Court in Whitley and Oak Tree House in Tilehurst. Food is also transported from Cedar Court to The Maples Day Service at Rivermead. The restaurant facilities are currently not well supported every day and many people who use them often buy simpler options in preference to a hot meal.

The needs of all affected service users will be reviewed to establish how best to meet the needs of each individual, both for meals and social opportunities. It is important to note that nobody will be left with unmet needs as a result of the changes.

Extra care and day care staff have already suggested a number of innovative ideas for a remodelled service. These include suggestions like offering the kitchen space to a micro-business, take-away options from local restaurants and businesses, or people bringing their own meals/food to eat together supported by care staff.

Cllr Rachel Eden

Rachel Eden, Reading’s Lead Councillor for Adult Social Care, said:

“The expiry to the current contract offers a real opportunity to look again at how meals are provided, and design a service which is sustainable and does more than just provide a hot meal for people who need it.

“It was wonderful to see the Council praised by the British Red Cross last week for its work to help tackle loneliness and social isolation in the town. We want to continue with that theme now by working with people and their families to find ways of combining the meals service with new and exciting opportunities for people to get together and share regular meals. That can be something as simple as a weekly meal from the local fish and chip shop, which quickly becomes a regular date in the calendar and which people can look forward to every week.

“It is important to note that no need will go unmet as a result of any future changes, and that a key element of the consultation process is to identify individual needs and individual requirements. It’s almost always the case that the best ideas come from the same people who use the service itself, and their families, so I would urge as many people as possible to use the consultation to feedback their thoughts.”

A 12-week consultation began yesterday (Oct 16) and runs until January 7th. An online questionnaire can be found at www.reading.gov.uk/extracarecatering. Paper consultation questionnaires will also be sent  to all service users and their carers and can be returned by prepaid return envelope to the Commissioning Team. People can also email: contracts.team@reading.gov.uk.

The consultation will also include 2 coffee mornings at Cedar Court, Oak Tree House and The Maples Day Service, which will double up as public engagement events. Details of these events will be advertised at each of the locations nearer the time.

While the current catering contract with White Oaks (part of Compass Group) ended in September, the Council has negotiated an interim contract to the end of February 2018 to continue the service while it consults on alternative options. Those options are due to be considered at a meeting of the Council’s Adult Children and Education Committee on 31st January.

Notes To Editors:

The Care Act requires Local Authorities to work with individuals to promote their well-being. It advocates for choice and independence and mandates local authorities to assess needs and provide support to meet assessed eligible needs. The Care Act does not state any Local Authority needs to provide meals.

Oscar Mortali

For media enquiries about this release email oscar.mortali@reading.gov.uk or call 0118 937 2301