Public outcry over the future of ‘Meals on Wheels’

Raymond Farrell. UUP

Local UUP councillor Raymond Farrell said there was a lot of anxiety surrounding the discussions

THERE has been a public outcry over a consultation process to determine the future of the meals on wheels scheme, after organisers were accused of hand-picking elderly people to attend the meeting.

Representatives from the Western Health Board (WHSCT) met with a number of families on Monday last to discuss their views on the service which has been earmarked for review.


But there have been a number of concerns raised by Fermanagh councillors and representatives from trade union Unite, who claim that outsourcing the service would lead to local elderly people receiving frozen meals from an outside provider.

It has also emerged that a large number of meals on wheels users, as well as providers, were not told about the meeting which took place at the South West Acute Hospital.

Jill Weir, the Fermanagh/Omagh branch secretary for Unison, accused the WHSCT of organising a ‘contrived’ meeting.

“The people who attended that meeting were nearly handpicked as not everyone was included in the process or even told about it,” she said.

“I am not happy with the way the process was conducted as it appeared to be a very contrived meeting and I don’t believe it was an open and transparent process.

“I received calls from members of the community who said they weren’t even aware it was happening. I have emailed Vincent Ryan (of the WHSCT) and hope to meet with him to discuss this.

“We understand that discussions to outsource these meals have been ongoing and we are totally against that. It’s not just about providing a meal, it’s also the social and safety aspect for elderly people, because for many it’s the only caller they have all day.”


It was revealed at last month’s Fermanagh District Council meeting that the waiting list for free meals is between six to seven months, and that the Trust has pulled the plug on new appointments. While it is understood that the service may be outsourced to a Belfast-based company, a number of councillors expressed their concerns over the impact it could have on jobs and elderly people.

Fermanagh UUP councillor Raymond Farrell said there was a lot of anxiety surrounding the ongoing discussions.

“I have expressed my concerns, as well as other councillors, about the process of the consultation,” he said.

“There seems to be a lot of anxiety for people who receive the service as well as the providers and carers as they haven’t been given the opportunity to have their say what happens.”

Vincent Ryan from the WHSCT is to meet with the council’s Development Committee next month to advise councillors on the consultation process.

A spokesman for WHSCT confirmed that the meeting was held in private.

“As part of the Trust’s PPI (Public and Patient Involvement) programme a number of user engagement events have been set up for those supported with the following range of service areas; community equipment, continence service and meals on wheels service.

“These events are targeted towards service users and aim to gather their specific views and perspectives as user of these services.”

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