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The days of piping hot “meals on wheels” deliveries are coming to an end – after Islington Council decided it was time to scrap the lunch service.

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Plummeting numbers of residents are getting food brought to their doors and the council plans to halt the service altogether from November.

Instead, disabled and elderly people could get more help from carers with shopping and preparing food, or be encouraged to visit lunch clubs.

Cllr Janet Burgess, Islington Council’s executive member for health and wellbeing, said: “Meals on wheels have been around as long as I’ve been alive. It’s a very traditional way of delivering meals to people, but life has moved on and for every seven new users, 20 people drop out.

“It’s not a social experience any more, the drivers simply jump out and put the meals in your hand, and they’re off.

“We think the best thing to do is offer a more personalised service. We’re not doing this as a cost-cutting measure – it will cost us roughly the same.”

Town hall bosses believe the dwindling demand is because people expect more choice and variety these days, including when they eat, rather than the same cottage pie or fish and chips at the same time daily.

Just 84 people now use the service in Islington, whether for hot or frozen deliveries, down from more than 300 in 2007.

Residents currently pay £3 and the council said it will be able to order from a private company at a similar cost should they choose.

But the company, Wiltshire Farm Foods, only offers frozen options – meaning hot deliveries will be consigned to the past.

Council officer Clare Henderson, from adult social services, said: “For some people, we will arrange for a home carer to come in at lunchtime. A lot of people already have a lunchtime visit and the home carer would have it added to what they do.”

Islington Council is consulting on the changes and the finer details are still to be ironed out.

Cllr Terry Stacy, leader of the Lib Dem opposition, agreed the service needs updating, but said: “The uncertainty is going to be very worrying for people. The council needs to resolve this quickly to ensure these residents are looked after and not left hanging.”

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