HUNDREDS of elderly people who rely on hot meals delivered daily by Agincare may face the threat of going hungry if the company withdraws its Home Cuisine service.

This week the Advertiser was contacted by a worried daughter of an 89-year-old who says she has been told the company, based in Cheney Manor, is planning to terminate the service and there are that reports staff were handed redundancy notices at a meeting last Friday.

It is believed Agincare plans to withdraw the service on November 16 unless a buyer can be found.

An estimated 140 clients in Swindon are thought to receive hot meals every day from Agincare, but so far none have received any information about the potential closure.

One woman, who did not wish to be identified but whose elderly parent uses the service, said: “It started a few weeks ago when the lady who delivers my mum’s meals told me Agincare was shutting on October 31.

“I asked if they were going to let us know and she said she didn’t know, but they were having a meeting about it last Friday.

“I saw her after that meeting and she said they had all been handed their redundancy notices, and it would definitely be closing on November 16.

“Another gentlemen who also delivers meals said exactly the same thing.”

The woman is concerned Agincare’s clients, who pay £5.95 a day for meals, will not be aware of the withdrawal of the service until the last minute.

“They said they were going to let people know by taking a letter out to them, but a lot of the elderly people they deliver to are very old or blind, and the letters will end up just being discarded, meaning the people won’t know they won’t be receiving their dinners any more until the very last minute,” she said.

“There’s nothing quite like this which they can use. You can get frozen dinners but a microwave just looks like some kind of spaceship to a lot of elderly people.

“It’s not just the dinners either. A lot of the elderly people might have carers who go in to see them, but some of them don’t, because they’re just about able to get about but not able to cook for themselves.

"When the people who deliver go in they take a moment to check they are OK, if it’s very cold or anything they then can call someone.

“They also deliver on Christmas Day and the old people like it because then they have a chance to talk to someone.

“I think it’s just a shame, and I just want people to know about it.”

A spokesman from Agincare yesterday denied anyone had been handed a redundancy notice, or that November 16 had been set as the date for the rumoured withdrawal.

He said: “Agincare are currently consulting with our meal delivery team in Swindon and we are also in positive discussions with an interested party to secure the future of the business and protect this service.

“If our attempt to secure a suitable and willing buyer fails, we will of course ensure that all of our service users will be signposted to a suitable alternative and our delivery team are treated fairly.”

Swindon Borough Council is aware of the consultation and the potential closure.

A spokesman said: “The council does not provide or fund meals on wheels services. It has been brought to our attention that a local hot meal delivery company, called Agincare, is in consultation with its staff to close if it cannot find another provider to take on the business.

“The potential closure, which would take effect on November 16, concerns 70 people across Swindon with varying levels of vulnerability. Agincare will be writing to all customers to explain the situation and signpost them to alternatives. We are also liaising closely with Agincare to explore all options available.”

Brian Deeley, CEO of Age UK Wiltshire, said elderly people in receipt of hot meals would be very dependent on the service.

“Generally where we have got people who have meals coming in and we have a carer coming in to help the meals are important particularly if the person perhaps finds it difficult to get out and do their shopping or cooking or is socially isolated in some way and perhaps hasn’t got anybody else to help them.

“It’s also particularly important for nutritional reasons, particularly in the coming months.”

Derek Luckhurst founded his first care home in 1986 and Agincare developed from this. The current chief executive is Raina Summerson.