FEDERAL MP Warren Entsch has again driven the Meals on Wheels cause in Canberra, this week speaking on a proposed nutrition project for the elderly that has failed to win any government funding or support.
Mr Entsch seconded a Private Member’s Motion put forward by NSW MP Mark Coulton, the Member for Parkes, which recognised the vital work of Meals on Wheels and its volunteers.
The motion also called on the government to support Meals on Wheels Australia’s initiative to research new ways to improve the nutritional status of elderly Australians, a program which “has the potential to change the health, happiness and well-being of elderly Australians”.
With a total cost over three years of $890,000, Meals on Wheels had already secured $464,000 funding from the NSW-based Balnaves Foundation and Nestle, and in-kind support from universities and Meals on Wheels South Australia.
The remaining $426,000 was to be funded over three years from State and/or Federal governments an average of just $142,000 per year.
However, due to a lack of support from State and Federal Governments, the Balnaves funding expired at the end of September – a loss Mr Entsch described as “a waste”.
“This is typical of a government that is determined to splurge billions of dollars it doesn’t have on projects with little or no relevance to the average person, but it cannot support an absolutely vital project such as this,” Mr Entsch told parliament.
The Leichhardt MP highlighted the vital role of Meals on Wheels branches in Cairns, Marlin Coast and Mossman/Port Douglas, which together produce more than 1,100 meals per week – 57,000 a year.
“There is no disputing the fact that this organisation has played an absolutely vital role in our community for more than 60 years,” Mr Entsch said.
“Unfortunately, when older people are on their own, the incentive and ability to cook their own meals is one of the first areas to suffer. This is why nearly one-third of frail patients admitted to hospital are malnourished and a further 60 per cent are at risk of malnutrition.”
Meals on Wheels not only provides a regular and nutritious meal, but it provides vital social contact and for many people, is the only reason they can stay in their own homes, he said.“I commend Meals on Wheels Australia for not resting on their laurels but continually looking at ways that they can do things even better. Their initiative to should not – and cannot – be sidelined.”