The Cockerel on Wheels owner Claire Rushen makes a hot food delivery to North Walsham pensioner Helen Widdowson as a trusted trader who has taken over the the former Meals on Wheels service in the town.
PHOTO BY SIMON FINLAY

North Walsham restaurant takes over meals on wheels service

Monday, December 31, 2012
11.29 AM

A North Walsham restaurant has started delivering meals on wheels to elderly people and others after the service was scrapped by Norfolk County Council (NCC).

The Cockerel, on North Street, cooks and takes out hot meals to 40-50 people each day in the town.

Now owners Mark and Claire Rushen are appealing for volunteers to help run the new service, and for more customers to make sure it remains viable in North Walsham and can expand into surrounding villages.

“Cockerel on Wheels” staff also provide a daily “safe and well” check on each customer and will contact next of kin, a doctor or social services if they find anything amiss.

“If we weren’t doing it there would be no service here any longer. Mr Cameron would probably call it ‘the Big Society’. I call it neighbourliness and giving something back,” said Mr Rushen.

The Cockerel has joined nine other NCC trading standards “Trusted Traders” across Norfolk, passing food safety, insurance and criminal records bureau checks in order to be permitted to offer the service on an un-subsidised, commercial footing.

A county council spokesman said the service had cost NCC £1.2m a year which was used to subsidise each meal by £4.96, so that the 650 recipients only paid £3.30.

“The old meals on wheels service was not particularly equitable or flexible. For example, it was only available to people that were eligible for care funding and there were some areas of the county where people could only get meals delivered two days a week,” said the spokesman.

“There had been a significant drop in the number of people who used the service in the last few years, and we were keen to change the way meals were provided, to ensure they were available to anyone in Norfolk who wants them.”

The council-run service had been phased out gradually, beginning in Norwich on April 27. It finished in north Norfolk on December 7.

Cockerel on Wheels charges from £5 for a frozen meal, to £6 for a hot first course and a pudding. Fresh soup and a roll costs £1.50 and tea - sandwiches and cake - is also available for £2.50.

Meals are delivered five days a week and customers can have frozen meals on Fridays to cover the weekend.

Helen Widdowson had been using the old service twice a week for about six years since coming out of hospital.

“I was a bit wobbly and couldn’t stand up to cook. The new service is more expensive because it isn’t subsidised any more but I’m delighted that the Cockerel is offering freshly-cooked hot meals,” said Mrs Widdowson, 88.

“I don’t like the idea of living on frozen or ready meals.”

Unlike the council-run service, meals can be ordered by anyone, with 24 hours notice.

● For more information about the Cockerel meals service, or volunteering, with travel expenses paid, ring 01692 400661.