Meals on Wheels National Conference
19-21 February 2020
Registrations Now Open
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September 5, 2019
Meals on Wheels National Conference
19-21 February 2020
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September 4, 2019
Health services must integrate a stronger focus on ensuring optimum nutrition at each stage of a person’s life, according to a new report released by the World Health Organization (WHO). It is estimated that the right investment in nutrition could save 3.7 million lives by 2025.
February 24, 2019
September 15, 2017
Earlier this year, national peak body the Australian Meals on Wheels Association (AMOWA) called for a modest additional investment to address the funding inequities in each State, and to stop struggling services having to raise fees to their customers.
This morning the iconic service rejoiced after the announcement by the Federal Minister for Aged Care, Ken Wyatt, of an additional $8 million in government support.
AMOWA President, Nelson Mathews, says this announcement is great news and the government’s intention to allocate the extra funding in a more equitable way has been welcomed by all the clients, volunteers and staff of AMOWA.
“Services struggling with cost pressures have been forced to raise the price of meals to their customers to levels we think are unacceptable, this additional Commonwealth Home Support Program funding will help stall further price hikes for those who can least afford them,” Mr Mathews said.
“Many chronically underfunded Meals on Wheels services will now receive extra funding to bring them closer to par with other services in Australia with the Government intending to contribute a minimum of $4.70 towards the cost of this iconic service.
“The government has recognised the massive return in down-stream community benefits and health savings it gains through preventative care services like Meals on Wheels.”
Australians of all ages have access to receiving Meals on Wheels including those living with mental or physical disabilities as well as older members of the community, all of who benefit from the three services provided that is bundled into one.
Meals on Wheels services throughout Australia nourish, care and connect communities, by delivering over 10 million Meals on Wheels meals to more than 120,000 clients Australia-wide in cities, regional and rural areas each year.
September 13, 2017
President – Nelson Mathews
Australians of all ages receive Meals on Wheels. Those living with mental or physical disabilities or older members of our community. They choose us because they appreciate that-
Meals on Wheels provides 3 services in 1
We Nourish. By providing a well-balanced and nutritious meal
We Care. By providing vital social contact, monitoring health and well-being and giving re-assurance to both our customers and their families. If someone is losing weight or seems distressed, our volunteers notice and act accordingly. This is the preventative care aspect of our service.
And thirdly– We Connect Communities. Volunteers are the heart of our service. They always say that they get more than they give. This engagement and sense of purpose has a massive impact on so many lives. Our services do not work alone, they work with and along-side other organisations to enhance the lives of people in their communities.
Together, these three elements make for a very powerful combination. Getting a week’s supply of frozen meals delivered by a private provider is not Meals on Wheels. We keep people well nourished, we intervene when they’re in trouble, we prevent falls and hospital stays, we keep people at home for longer, which means they spend less time in expensive residential care. It’s been estimated that for every dollar the government provides in subsidy, they get five back in down-stream health savings.
We are truly More Than Just a Meal.
However we are also under-funded. But before I expand on this, I’d like to recall a story …
A few years ago Grace rang up to enquire about getting meals for herself and husband. She was asked if she could still cook? – “yes” – still drive and shop? – “yes”. This call was taken by the then regional assessment team in Western Australia – which incidentally was introduced in that State many years before the introduction of nationally funded Regional Assessment Teams and My Aged Care. She was refused services. Grace had been actively involved in her community and rang the local Meals on Wheels provider directly. The coordinator found out that Grace was the full-time Carer for her incapacitated husband, and was juggling his health appointments and running the household and finding it harder to find the time to shop and cook
By the time an assessment was organised, her husband had to go into care, and Grace didn’t need the service. This story and others like it at the time, were very concerning. Those meals and a friendly chat to a volunteer might have provided special comfort and assistance during those last arduous, emotional and demanding weeks in her role as Carer. She reached out to her local community, who would have been all too willing to help, but both were stymied by the system.
About two and a half years ago, when we were consulted on the Commonwealth Home Support Program manual, AMOWA argued and won the right to put clients on services first, and then refer to My Aged Care. I’m convinced this stopped many more cases like Grace’s occurring. While we do hear regular examples of people approaching My Aged Care who are not referred on to Meals on Wheels, it was a relief to hear that after a year our services reported that none of their referrals to My Aged Care had been knocked back. Fortunately, most people continue to reach out to their local Meals on Wheels service first.
We also highlighted the limits to the policy of ‘reablement’, and the inference that Meals on Wheels was a passive service of dependency. We pointed out that the service was, in and of itself, an enabler.
As WA finally joins all the other States and transitions to direct federal funding next year, it’s worth pausing to reflect. Local Government is the main provider of Meals on Wheels there and because of the low subsidy provided, some chose to opt out, so in many places in WA today you cannot even access a Meals on Wheels service. In five years, from 2012, the number of people getting Meals on Wheels almost halved. The parallels with the UK are sobering. Over a similar time period, when funding for in-home support services, such as delivered meals and social support had their funding cut, hospitalisation rates of malnourished older people increased by over 200%.
Incidentally, during the same period meals provision in SA, QLD and NSW increased. Are people living in the west less deserving than or different from those living in the east?
In some ways, the Australian government is flying blind. Where is the evidence that when consumers are choosing alternatives to Meals on Wheels, that those alternatives are delivering cost effective outcomes? Where is the modelling that says keeping the subsidy so low will lead to better health outcomes? Are there more hospital admissions in areas where Meals on Wheels does not exist or is chronically under-funded? Yes, according American research. Yes, according to UK statistics.
When reviewing the future of aged care in 2011, the Productivity Commission recommended that Meals on Wheels and some other services be left out of the formal aged care system because they considered them fundamental services that should be readily accessible to anyone in the community. In short, this meant that if someone needed help with meals, they should get it.
Meals on Wheels seems to be caught in the middle of government cost shifting.
Let’s consider Victoria in this cost shifting paradigm, the only State in Australia, except WA, where the majority of services, are provided by Local Government. They contribute up to 40% of the cost of a meal. In worrying signs, many are raising their prices to unaffordable levels and in other instances opting out of service provision all-together. Where is their incentive to stay in the business or to market their services to vulnerable people in their communities who might need them? After-all, Local Government doesn’t pay for hospitals or residential care.
It costs about a thousand dollars a day to keep someone in hospital for one night, that’s the equivalent of what the government spends on the total subsidy for one person for Meals on Wheels for a year in many parts of Australia.
Sadly, the people that the cost is being shifted to, more often than not, are those using our services. Meals on Wheels services all over Australia, large and small, are struggling not to pass rising costs onto customers. Yet the government is happy to subsidise other home care services by 50 to 100%. They provide around $40 an hour for housecleaning and the consumer pays about $5. Yet for Meals on Wheels they provide a subsidy that averages less than $5 per meal, with our customers having to pay upwards of $9 per meal. It’s simply not fair. And it puts the health of older people at risk, if they can’t afford their Meals on Wheels service.
Meals on Wheels needs to be adequately funded. We also need to be appropriately funded.
There has been much talk recently about a move away from block funding to individualised funding. The suggestion that the block funding MOW services get now – which they use to operate the service and remain liquid – would be given directly to the consumer. The rationale is that the consumer would then decide if they wanted Meals on Wheels or a week’s supply of frozen meals from a private provider, or a care worker to cook a week’s worth of casseroles and pop them in the fridge (a much more expensive option). Put simply, many, many MOW services would fall over. We welcomed the news that the government has committed to continue with block funding until 2020 and we continue to press the case for block funding in the longer term.
So, where to from here? How do we get the balance right? How do we work with government on developing a sustainable model for the unique and varied Meals on Wheels services across Australia?
Earlier this year AMOWA asked for a very modest 5 million dollars to address the funding inequities in each State, and to stop struggling services having to raise their fees to their customers. In the same submission, we asked for $300,000 for AMOWA to fund the resources to work with the government on a sensible way forward.
We haven’t yet succeeded, but given what I’ve just laid out here in terms of the challenges we face, I’d urge the government to reconsider urgently.
MOW services are adapting and evolving, are focused on consumers, care about providing excellent meals and other services, and need to continue supporting and investing in our predominantly voluntary workforce, which is what makes these biennial conferences so important.
Just before I go, at the last conference I mentioned my in-laws, Ray and Isabel. Isabel had a fall and after hospital the family tried to get various services in. In short, Ray hated the idea, and did his best to deter these hapless service providers. Meals on Wheels weathered the push-back. They were both underweight at the time, so the entire family was relieved, especially those of us far away in Victoria. Ray is now Isabel’s full time Carer. Her dementia is advancing quite quickly and he has come to really appreciate the social interactions with the meals volunteers. I cannot tell you the comfort this gives us. Ray has just been diagnosed with stage 4 cancer so I predict they have very little time left together. There is no way they would have survived as long at home without the service. But let’s just say it’s given them one extra year at home together. That’s cost the Australian government less than $2000 in terms of subsidy per meal for two people, for one year. Ray and Isabel’s little service in rural QLD has just saved the government, a minimum of $100,000 in health costs.
What an amazing service!!!
As we listen, debate and converse over the next 3 days, let’s not forget to celebrate that fact.
Have a great conference.
March 27, 2017
February 22, 2017
The National Meal Guidelines were formally launched by the Minister Aged Care and Minister for Indigenous Health, Hon. Ken Wyatt AM MP at Parliament House in Canberra last week. A transcript of his speech can be found here.
While AMOWA and Meals on Wheels continue to develop and forge ahead, funding uncertainly is threatening service viability. National AMOWA President Nelson Mathews highlighted this in his speech at the launch, calling for funding certainty and an extra $5 million dollars in the 2017 budget to address funding shortfalls and inequities. A transcript of his speech can be viewed here.
The Minister for Aged Care and Minister from Indigenous Health, Hon Ken Wyatt AM MP (centre right) with (from left) Associate Professor Karen Walton, Project Leader, Smart Foods Centre, Wollongong University, and the Project Steering Group; Sharon Lawrence, Dietitian and DAA Representative; Nelson Mathews, AMOWA President and Steering Group Chair; Julie Bonnici, Manager Services Operations, SA Meals on Wheels; Duncan McDonald, Food Technologist.
February 8, 2017
October 25, 2016
Ground-breaking guidelines supporting innovative and flexible delivered meal programs have been released today by the Australian Meals on Wheels Association. The National Meal Guidelines were developed by the Australian Meals on Wheels Association in partnership with the Smart Foods Centre, University of Wollongong. The guidelines represent the first nationally consistent approach to nutrition, menu planning and meal presentation for organisations providing delivered meals through the Commonwealth Home Support Programme. They are an excellent resource for other services providing meals for older people – in community centres, the consumer’s own kitchen, or in residential care settings.
A formal launch of the Guidelines, along with distribution of copies to member services, is expected to occur in November 2016.
August 26, 2016
Photo – Kathryn Dowling
The Wollongong Project Team includes Senior Professor Linda Tapsell, and pictured above (left to right) members of the Smart Foods Centre, Wollongong Team (W) and AMOWA Steering Committee (SC)- Associate Professor, Karen Charlton (W), Food Technologist, Duncan MacDonald, (SC), Dr Anne McMahon (W), Professor Peter Williams (W), SA Meals on Wheels Operations Manager, Julie Bonicci (SC), Project Leader and Associate Professor, Karen Walton (W), Dietitians Association of Australia Representative, Sharon Lawrence (SC) and Steering Group Chair, President AMOWA, Nelson Mathews (SC).
Following very strong buy-in from the sector during the stakeholder consultation process that included leading experts on nutrition and grass roots providers, both the steering and project groups had a lot to weigh up and consider.
Project Steering Group Chair and AMOWA President, Nelson Mathews says, “Balancing the nutritional science, which tends to be prescriptive, and the practicalities of individual service’s resources, and the need for greater flexibility in relation to consumer choice, has been the biggest hurdle”
“This is shaping up to be a landmark document” said Nelson. “We feel we’re very close to releasing something the sector can be proud of”
The National Meal Guidelines will be released on the 10th of October on this site, with hard copies mailed to all providers in the following weeks. A launch to celebrate the release will take place in late October, early November.
National Nutritional Guidelines have been recommended by various stakeholders involved in the home delivered meals sector for over a decade. We’re very excited to announce that AMOWA received a grant from the Australian Government for the purpose of developing National Meal Guidelines following a proposal submitted in October 2015. After an invited tender process a team for the Smart Foods Centre, University of Wollongong was chosen to undertake the project.
The Department of Social Services, Key Directions for the Commonwealth Home Support Programme paper, made the following recommendations as a result of the Home and Community Care (HACC) Meals Review (page 60):
The change in terminology from ‘nutritional guidelines’ to ‘meals guidelines’ was recommended by AMOWA and agreed to by the federal government. It was thought that the term ‘nutritional’ was too restrictive and did not adequately encompass important factors such as packaging, texture, choice, appearance and quality, all vital in encouraging best practice and ensuring that consumers are more likely to eat the meals provided.
Stakeholder Engagement – Workshops, Surveys and Phone Interviews
There are three phases to stakeholder engagement. You may choose to engage in one, two or three of the phases.