Statement from the Meals on Wheels Victoria State Manager

The recent media attention in The Age has caused both shock and concern for Meals on Wheels
supporters and the broader Victorian and Australian community – and understandably so.

Meals on Wheels Victoria is not a provider of services and instead aims to promote the health and
wellbeing benefits of the Meals on Wheels service model and community meals and give support to
its members. We promote best practice and facilitate networking and relationships between
providers and the dedicated volunteers and staff working within the sector.

We have no position on whether local government stays in or exits service provision and have been
clear on this when approached by the media. We also avoid mentioning organisations by name when
asked for comment or information, where possible. However, we believe that customers have a right
to continuity of both the services they get and the way they are provided, in accordance with their
assessed need and service plan, despite a change in provider.

Meals on Wheels Victoria is advocating that the Australian Government will review its CHSP
contracting processes to prevent poor outcomes for customers. Meals on Wheels Victoria also
recommends service providers work in accordance with our Best Practice Guidelines. It is envisaged
that these Guidelines will be an important resource for the regulation of the future Support at Home
Program to be introduced in July 2024.

Meals on Wheels Australia (MoWA) is the peak body representing members and consumers,
nationally. Through its valuable work it connects with a broad range of Federal Ministers and works
proactively and constructively with the Department of Health and Aged Care. Presently MoWA is
actively working with Government on the design process for in-home support services and is a
founding peak body of the national Support at Home Alliance. Meals on Wheels Victoria has two
representatives on the Board of Meals on Wheels Australia representing Victorian customers and

Meals on Wheels Australia and Victoria has a long history of successfully working with Federal
Government to achieve better outcomes for Meal service customers and providers. As a result of
lobbying by MoWA in 2017, the federal government increased the meal subsidy to $4.85 in Victoria (a
50% increase). In 2020 MoWA secured over 50 million dollars to support its COVID-19 pandemic
response and the subsidy increased in Victoria to $7.50 in July 2021. This represents millions of dollars
for meal providers and uplifts of this magnitude would not occur without MoWA.

There are disparate views about the Meals on Wheels services in Victoria. Some see the service
model as outdated and believe their communities don’t want or need it. While others believe that
Meals on Wheels is essential and provides vital social and community connections for both customers
and volunteers. The MOW Victoria committee concur with the latter point of view and see our
association as the custodian of the service. We believe that Meals on Wheels belongs to our
communities, not to local government or other organisations. Decisions about its future should
involve meaningful community consultation and be based on real life experience, evidence and
research (local and international).

It is not surprising that some local governments who have ceased all other support at home services
have remained delivering Meals on Wheels. Increasingly, we are finding organisations that believe the
service is vital to their communities, are thriving. They usually place high emphasis on sourcing good
quality meals either via a tendering process or robust contract specifications, and the monitoring of
vulnerable members in their communities.

When a provider tells us their customer numbers are decreasing, we talk to them about the reasons
why. Is it the cost? Is it the quality of the meal? Is it competition from private meals providers? In
most instances we recommend benchmarking with other services. So, if your service is not attracting
new customers, why not engage with another provider who is experiencing the exact opposite?
I am often looked at sceptically by some within the sector when espousing the value of the service.
Alternatively, others think I must be exaggerating, when I reveal the prevalence within the sector of
those who don’t support their own service nor care about its survival or sustainability. We cannot
represent every viewpoint or opinion. However, we welcome factual information and robust
discussion. When designing the Best Practice Guidelines, we did not get complete agreement, but we
achieved broad consensus.

I recently visited providers both rurally and in Melbourne and went on a couple of meal delivery runs.
The experience reminded me of why this service is so important. The customers visited seem to have
quite a few things in common. Most were very frail, most relied on the meal as their main source of
nutrition, some needed their meals heated, others required special diets or for their food to be
texture modified, all variations a good Meals on Wheels service sees part of its brief. But the thing
that sticks in my mind the most? Almost all welcomed the delivery personnel with overt gratitude.
The importance of this connection was plain to see. No spiel about social welfare, combating social
isolation is necessary when one goes on a Meals on Wheels delivery run.

For more information on the national Support at Home Alliance please follow this link.

Nelson Mathews
State Manager – Meals on Wheels Victoria