A VITAL community service that helps vulnerable older residents is set for a radical shake-up from next year.

Basingstoke and Deane Borough Council has agreed to spend thousands of pounds to help Hampshire County Council trial a new-look Meals on Wheels service.

County chiefs have asked for up to £10,000 from Basingstoke and Deane for a one-year pilot project from April 2013.

Under Hampshire’s proposals, a hot meal will be delivered to needy residents over-55 who meet the county criteria for the service.

Meals on Wheels delivery staff will be trained to look for signs that a resident is struggling, and can request a visit from a borough-based befriending service, such as NeighbourCare or Age Concern.

Currently, Meals on Wheels is available only to residents referred from Hampshire County Council’s adult services department.

Under proposed new rules, residents will instead fill out an online form, requesting a visit from the mobile meals service.

People must meet the criteria, such as you are struggling to cook for yourself or have just been discharged from hospital.

The new plans will feature a volunteer-run befriending service running in tandem with Meals on Wheels.

Currently, 130 people in Basingstoke and Deane are referred by adult services for Meals on Wheels.

Councillors on the borough council’s community well-being overview and scrutiny committee, tasked with green-lighting the scheme, were told that the number of people receiving meals is expected to rise.

“The new scheme is making it more available for anyone who needs the service,” said June Balcombe, borough council community development team leader.

“It is about trying to keep people in their own homes for longer, and making sure that they are healthier and happier for longer.”