Meals on Wheels customers face a price increase

SERVICE: Meals on Wheels delivers to thousands of Tasmanian residents each year. The organisation is calling on the federal government to provide more funding. Picture: Supplied
SERVICE: Meals on Wheels delivers to thousands of Tasmanian residents each year. The organisation is calling on the federal government to provide more funding. Picture: Supplied

Thousands of pensioners across the state could be forced to pay more for Meals on Wheels if the federal government does not increase the service’s funding.

Across the state the organisation provides more than 180,000 meals each year.

Australian Meals on Wheels Association president Nelson Mathews is calling on the federal government to provide $5 million to the service in the upcoming budget so it can absorb cost increases.

Between 50 and 80 per cent of the cost of Meals on Wheels is paid by the consumer. 

The federal government only provides a small contribution to Meals on Wheels – which varies from state to state – and can be as low as $3 per meal. 

“We think that's too low and we would actually like that increased,” Mr Matthews added. 

He said without the federal government providing a $5 million funding increase, the cost of meals for consumers could rise. 

“You can use all the statistics and facts you want but the bottom line is there are cost pressures on services,” he said. 

“We don't want fees to go up any more than they are because an elderly pensioner is sometimes spending 10 per cent of their pension on meals and that's enough.”

The Meals on Wheels Tasmania 2016 annual report showed the organisation had a deficit of $222,699 for the 2015-2016 financial year. 

The report noted the organisation could “no longer afford to subsidise the costs of meals”. 

Mr Mathews raised concerns about elderly people skipping meals due to an increase in service costs. 

"If you slash funding for Meals on Wheels it's going to have downstream community consequences,” he said.

Mr Mathews described Meals on Wheels as a “preventative health service” and called on the government to put more money towards it.

“What we're saying is put a little bit of money here and we will save money [through lower hospital admissions],” he said.  

In justifying a government funding increase Mr Mathews said the cost of providing meals for one person for a year was equivalent to keeping someone in hospital for one day.

He also said the organisation’s volunteer labour and services would bear the brunt of any cost increases.

“You've got small [Meals on Wheels] services who rely on volunteer labour,” he said.  

“Those services are under pressure.”

Mr Matthews also paid tribute to the hundreds of Tasmanian Meals on Wheels volunteers.

“The service wouldn’t survive without them,” he said.

“People do it because they see the incredible outcomes – it really is more than a meal.”