Neel Radia is the National Chairman for the National Association of Care Catering (NACC), the lead organisation for caterers working in the care sector.
The NACC’s main aim is to raise the standards and profile of care catering within the UK, whether meals are delivered to the home through services like meals on wheels and lunch clubs or through residential and nursing homes. The association is 30 years old. Neel Radia is in his third term as elected chairman, so this is his fifth year in office.
The NACC is a not for profit organisation run by volunteers. Neel tells us, “As Chairman I strategically lead the association to uphold our vision and purpose, drive our campaigns and ensure the executive committee, with its six regional committees, runs efficiently.
We publish guidelines, organise training and development seminars and conferences, facilitate the National Care Chef of the Year competition -all to help raise standards”.
Neel Radia’s role at the NACC
Mr Radia explains, “As this is voluntary, I do this role on top of the day job so it uses a lot of my free time. I am
passionate about the care sector and I am at a stage in my life where I am able to make a difference, and raise standards to ensure older and vulnerable people within the UK care system get the best meal time experience that we are able to deliver”.
Meeting cultural, religious and medical needs and assistance
Examples of the areas that Mr Radia has challenged over the past four years include;
- Leading a political campaign to raise awareness of the importance of the Meals on Wheels service, that ensures older and vulnerable people have access to hot meals being delivered to their homes. The service has historically been subsidised and delivered by local councils, but with government funding cuts to social care budgets the NACC research has found that over 50% have shut these vital services down.
The campaign he led gained media attention across the major national broadcasters like the BBC and national newspapers. Neel went on the Sunday Politics show to debate with politicians.
Although the royal family is not able to get involved politically in campaigns the NACC received the support of HRH Duchess of Cornwall who joined him in St Albans to meet service users of Meals on wheels at a day centre. Together, they raised awareness around social isolation and the importance of these services to reduce this for our older citizens. The campaign involved a round table meeting at the House of Commons with MPs and Ministers to discuss further action.
- The NACC has just launched England’s first qualification in Health and social care catering that will be available in colleges from Spring 2018.
- During Mr Radia’s chairmanship the NACC identified the lack of accredited training available for chefs working in health and social care catering. It has painstakingly put a course together which was just recently approved by OffQual (regulators for qualifications in England).
Neel says, “This took hard work, but it is gratifying. This qualification will ensure that minimum quality standards are fulfilled.
The qualification will also encourage younger chefs who are entering the world of hospitality to consider the care sector as a viable career path.”
Neel has spoken at many national and international Healthcare conferences including Australia and Canada on the importance of good nutrition and hydration for senior citizens.
Why Neel Radia took on this volunteering role
“I am a 38 year old British Asian. We were brought up on the values of looking after our parents and grandparents, taking care of each other and the importance of food. Everything we do within our homes and culturally, revolves around food and meal times.
The reason I joined the NACC was because it does not matter who you are or where you come from. We all deserve access to good food and nutrition. We see an emphasis on the importance of school meals and hospital meals in the media but rarely much on elderly and vulnerable people.
I was in the right place to step forward and volunteer my time to make a difference and I have not regretted this decision. We are making a difference, not only to the care system, but to the wellbeing, dignity and lives of older vulnerable people who unfortunately do not always have the opportunity to voice their opinions.
It is imperative that we work together and take responsibility to ensure that not only do these services stay in place but also meet recommended standards. Not only for those in our care today but also for us in the future.