Meals on Wheels customers have been given a reprieve from further prices hikes, after the federal government came through with an extra $8 million a year in funding for the vital service.
The funding – more than the $5 million a year in additional cash the Australian Meals on Wheels Association (AMOWA) had asked for back in February – is designed to fill the gap between subsidies provided by state governments and the cost of providing meals.
Queensland and South Australia, for example, provide less than $3 in subsidy for each meal, which had forced some providers to push the price for customers above $10 for the first time to cover rising costs.
By comparison, some states provide as much as $5 in subsidy per meal.
AMOWA President Nelson Mathews said the new federal funding meant that providers in all states would receive a minimum of $4.70 per meal, which should prevent further price rises that were looming.
He said the extra cash would save some Meals providers from running at a deficit, as some were currently doing to stave off price hikes for customers.
“[That’s] not sustainable in the long term,” Mathews said.
Meals on Wheels, which has been running for 60 years, provides 120,000 customers with 10 million meals a year Australia-wide, with the 600 Meals on Wheels services staffed by 70,000 volunteers.
“There’s about 60,000 doors knocked on every day from Monday to Friday,” Mathews said.
AMOWA has calculated that for every $1 the government spends on Meals on Wheels, it gets $5 back in savings because the service prevents customers from having to access taxpayer-funded health services.
Aged Care Minister Ken Wyatt said that the extra funding showed that supporting older Aussies who wanted to remain in their own home was a priority for the federal government.
“Home delivery services, including Meals on Wheels, are legendary,” Wyatt said as he announced the new funding on Monday.
“When a volunteer visits the home of an older Australian, they do more than provide a healthy meal.
“The visit is also an opportunity to have a friendly chat and to check on that person’s wellbeing. We need to maintain and grow this type of service into the future.”