DRASTIC changes to the meals-on-wheels service across the Chichester area are being delayed after concerns expressed by the volunteers who until now have delivered them.
They will no longer be needed to deliver meals. Instead they claim they will be used as ‘care workers’ being asked to perform roles they did not sign up for.
Many volunteers are said to be leaving the Royal Voluntary Service (RVS).
In Rustington one volunteer said she knew of only 2 remaining out of the 50 or so who volunteered there.
But a spokesman for the RVS said across the county there had been an average of ten to 15 per cent leaving.
However in the wake of concerns, the new system, due to begin two days ago, will now start in Rustington next Tuesday and be phased across the county early next year with paid van drivers taking on hot or chilled deliveries.
David McCullough, RVS chief executive said the RVS was sorry for the confusion: “We have listened to the concerns raised and as a result, we are delaying the rollout of the new service.
“We have been in regular communication with both our volunteers and those who use the service to let them know about the changes.
“It’s very important to us our volunteers and customers feel valued and informed.”
“Volunteers are vital to the service and we would like to take this opportunity to thank them all for the hard work and dedication they have put into making life better for older people in their community.”
A spokesman said where possible RVS had met with volunteers face to face to discuss changes or phoned them and then sent them letters to make sure everyone had access to the right information and an opportunity to ask questions.
The only change in the role of volunteers was they would be able to choose when they visited the older people they helped, rather than being restricted to spending time with them in a short delivery window.
Jamie Marks who receives meal-on-wheels at his Chichester home said: “I support the proposals in essence, but I do not support the way they are being rolled out.
“They should have kept the kitchens where they are and upgraded the service retaining the current volunteers – after all, why pay people when this is a charity, it goes against the grain.
“They haven’t communicated the changes to old people and the fact they are being delayed. It’s no way to treat old people.”