A quarter of local councils have increased the prices of hot meals by an inflation-busting 30% in the past five years, with huge variations around the country.
Which? used Freedom of Information requests to obtain figures from 97 councils to see how their charges for a hot meal for elderly people who could afford to pay the full cost changed over the last five years
For some over-65s who struggle to cook for themselves, a meals service – provided as part of a care package through their local council – can be a huge help in continuing to live independently at home.
These can be provided as a ‘meals-on-wheels’ home delivery or, if this is not available, in a daycare centre. You can find out more about these services in the Which? guide to long term care.
Between the financial years 2009/10 and 2013/14, the average cost of a meal has risen by 15.71% – just below the national food-price inflation of 17.1%. But one in four (24) of the councils surveyed had increased their charge by over 30%.
Our research found that where you live has a significant impact on the cost of a council-provided meal, with the difference between the cheapest, Kirklees Metropolitan Council, and most expensive, Reading Borough Council, being an eye-watering £5.05.
The price of a meal prepared by Reading shot up by 116% (or £3.35) to £6.25. This would be sufficient to buy three home-delivered meals in Liverpool at £2 each, with change to spare.
Meals on wheels prices
The Isle of Wight meanwhile increased prices from £3 to £5, and in Oldham the charge almost doubled from £2.20 to £4.
However, for four of the 97 councils examined, prices fell over the period: These were Southwark Council (from £3.34-£2.12), North Yorkshire County Council (from £2.50 to £2.30), Warrington Borough Council (from £2.55 to £2.30) and Poole Borough Council (from £5.51 to £3.30).