Have your say on the meals subsidy consultation

Closed 6 Aug 2019

Opened 28 May 2019

Results updated 8 Oct 2019

On 24 September 2019, East Sussex County Council’s Lead Member for Adult Social Care and Health agreed to changes in how the council provide subsidies for meals in the community.  

This follows proposals to remove the subsidy for meals in the community. The proposal underwent a 10-week consultation and Equality Impact Assessment, which informed the decision.

What has been agreed?

The decision was not to withdraw the meals subsidy in all cases. Taking into account feedback from the consultation, the subsidy will continue to be available for those who are most vulnerable and can’t afford to pay for the service themselves, and where it’s the most cost effective support option.

Eligibility for the subsidy will be determined through a social care needs assessment and financial assessment. This means people most at risk and unable to afford a meals service will still be able to access hot meals and a welfare check as part of the meals delivery service.  It’s expected that roughly 100 clients, who have complex needs or are considered to be highly vulnerable, are likely to continue to receive the meals subsidy.

Between now and the end of March 2020, people who receive the subsidy will be contacted about the changes and have their needs reviewed. Where there’s an identified risk the subsidy won’t be withdrawn until alternatives have been agreed as part of the person’s care and support plan.

What happens next?

Adult Social Care will be in touch with people affected by the decision over the coming months. No changes will be made to people’s support until they’ve been contacted.

For more information read the Lead Member papers and minutes.

Consultation results

We received over 500 responses to the consultation from organisations, groups and individuals, with nearly half coming from people receiving the subsidy and their families and carers. Overall themes from the consultation included:

  • The majority of respondents disagree with the proposal to withdraw the subsidy, although there are a reasonable number who agree with the proposal.
  • The results suggest that a good percentage of people who are currently receiving the subsidy would choose to pay the full cost themselves in order to keep receiving meals (39%).
  • There are a similar number of people who say that they would be unlikely to continue using the service if they had to pay the full cost (43%).
  • Some people told us that it would not be a viable option to cook for themselves, or even heat up microwave meals, due to an illness, disability or impairment.
  • Respondents are concerned that if the subsidy is stopped it could lead to people eating less food, having few or no hot meals, and eating a much less nutritious diet, all of which could have an impact on their health and wellbeing. This could make it harder for people to maintain their independence at home and may mean they end up needing more costly support from adult social care.
  • Lunch clubs would be likely to see a reduction in numbers if the subsidy stopped, which would make them less viable and could force them to close.
  • There was strong support across all the surveys for additional support being offered to certain groups of people, with most people saying that the focus should be on those with mobility issues, a physical disability, cognitive impairment, and those on a low income.
  • There was strong support for making the subsidy means tested, rather than stopping it completely, although some people are concerned about the administrative costs of means testing.


We are proposing to stop paying a subsidy for meals in the community.

Meals services enable people to have hot, chilled or frozen meals delivered to their home on a daily or weekly basis. We have a good range of service providers in East Sussex, which allow people to access high quality, nutritious food.

At the moment, the subsidy is £4.10 per meal and it is not means tested. The full cost of a meal is between £4 and £8. Our proposal would mean that people would need to pay the full cost of their meals if they wanted to carry on receiving them.

Please be assured that no changes would be made before October 2019.

How to take part

The detailed consultation information explains the background to the proposal, how the subsidy works, who is using the service, and how we think they might be affected. You can fill in the survey online or in hard copy, but you can also send us a letter or email – whatever works for you.

If you need this information in another format or you need help to take part please contact us via the details on the right. There is also an easy read leaflet below which explains how you can get help to take part.

  • Fill in the online survey by clicking on the link below
  • Email us your feedback: consultationASC@eastsussex.gov.uk
  • Post us your feedback: ASC Meals Subsidy Consultation, North A Floor, County Hall, St Anne’s Crescent, Lewes, BN7 1UE

Why we are consulting

We think it is reasonable to ask people to pay for their meals given the budget pressures we face. Most other local authorities have already moved away from subsidising this sort of service.

In line with the Care Act, we would continue to offer information about meals services and help people to access services if they were eligible to receive support from us. It’s also possible that a small group of people may need additional support with their meals due to a disability or because they are particularly vulnerable.

Stopping the subsidy could see savings of £483,000. Whatever decision is made about the subsidy, we would still need to find a way of saving this amount of money.

What happens next?

Members will make a decision in September about what happens next.

Privacy: This survey is anonymous, although we do ask some respondents to complete an optional 'about you' section at the end. You will find more information in the relevant section. Please ensure that any comments you make don't include any names or personal details of you or anyone else. For more information about how the data will be stored and processed by East Sussex County Council please see our privacy notice.

Consultation information

Read the detailed consultation information here or as part of the various surveys.

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  • Older people
  • Care and support services (adults)