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Volunteers Siobhan O Driscoll, front, Hilary O Neill, her daughter Lisa and Dylan Maxwell O Brien loading five vans with food as part of the Obair Meals On Wheels service. The organisation recently announced plans to greatly expand it services and the rural directorate of the council is keen to support the efforts.

Council supportive of move to enhance services to Clare elderly

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CLARE County Council has pledged to lend community development assistance to any local voluntary group that establishes a proposed new meals on wheels service for elderly people in West and North Clare.

This follows a call from Councillor Cillian Murphy and Councillor Joe Garrihy for the West Clare MD, Age Friendly Clare, and the Rural Development Directorate to support local community groups, the HSE and OBAIR Newmarket in the establishment of a meals on wheels and odd job service for West and North Clare.

In the context of the population, over 65, living in North and West Clare, many in rural and isolated areas, they pointed out this would enable older people to live healthier and longer in their own communities and to have a consistent regular contact linking them to locally delivered services.

Responding to their joint motion at a West Clare Municipal District (MD) meeting on Tuesday, acting Rural Development Senior Executive Officer, Bernie Haugh, said the Directorate fully supports the proposal.

She noted it aligned with the directorate’s objectives under its Rural Development Strategy 2026, Age Friendly Strategy and Healthy Clare Strategy.

The Healthy Clare Coordinator and the Rural and Community Development Officers are available to work with all stakeholders to support the health and wellbeing and community development aspects of the local community group who is leading this worthwhile project.

The council is currently recruiting for two vacant Rural and Community Development Officers to provide community groups with this “on the ground” support for the development of such initiatives.  

While the council itself cannot become involved in operating this type of service, it will provide community development assistance to the local voluntary group that does.

This particular initiative has been discussed previously with the Age Friendly Officer and the Healthy Clare Coordinator who have both afforded their support for the initiative.

The Healthy Ireland Framework for Improved Health and Wellbeing is a life course approach to health and wellbeing targeting everyone, of all ages living in Ireland.

“The expansion of Obair’s ‘Meals on Wheels’ service to North and West Clare is an important step in improving the health and wellbeing of older people living in those areas.

“I wish to acknowledge Obair’s Meals on Wheels service as providing both healthy nutritious food, and an opportunity for social connection for our older population living in rural Clare.

“Healthy Clare has two priority areas in which they are working on for the next three years, these are ‘Healthy Weight’ and ‘Mental Health Promotion’ both of which aligns with the ‘Obair – Meals on Wheels initiative.

“Dena McGrath, the Healthy Clare Coordinator can be contacted on healthyclare@clarecoco.ie who remains available to support the success of this and similar initiatives in the county.”

Age Friendly Ireland will be rolling out Healthy Age Friendly Homes Co-ordinators in May nationally, which is funded by Sláintecare.

The purpose of this co-ordinator is to provide a holistic assessment of older people in their homes, putting in place a plan to connect them with meals on wheels, social groups, health advice as well as arranging home adaption upgrades to keep them living in their homes and communities for as long as they can.

Councillor Garrihy told the meeting he and Councillor Murphy were looking at different funding streams to facilitate the expansion of the wheels and meals service into North and West Clare.

The Fine Gael Councillor recalled a lot of work was done during the Covid-19 pandemic supporting the elderly and people living on their own in isolated areas.

One of the examples was the provision of meals on wheels by organisations such as Ennistymon Day Hospital, Hotel Doolin and Stella Maris, who repurposed their primary roles to make this become a reality.

When the pandemic ended and these organisations went back to their normal activities, he recalled meals on wheels stopped.

Having visited the “fantastic” Obair Centre in Newmarket-on-Fergus, he described this facility as a real “role model” for the rollout of this service in other parts of the county.

He stressed that a volunteer element and paid role would be required to ensure this proposal was successful.

In view of the fact some people living on their own may only see their local priest and postman during the week, he outlined this service would provide another important point of social contact.

Councillor Cillian Murphy admitted he was “blown away” by what is being achieved in Obair when they visited the centre to see how they could get this rolled out in North and West Clare.

Stressing the need to avoid duplication of state and voluntary services, he welcomed the background work that is being done to pave the way for introducing this service.

He is particularly interested to see how the Healthy Age Co-ordinator will work and could go a long way in providing the coordination from agencies in association with community and voluntary groups that could be the “workhouses” behind this.

“Since this has gone public, I have been overwhelmed by people from all over West Clare asking when this will happen. There is a huge appetite for this out there. This is a no-brainer for rural development,” he said.

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