Councils say they've not shut down a Dorchester soup kitchen

Councils say they've not shut down a Dorchester soup kitchen

Published by Maria Greenwood at 9:54am 27th November 2019.

Councils say they have not closed down a volunteer service which feeds homeless people in Dorchester – despite claims on social media.

The service had been operating outside the town library until Dorset Council, reacting to complaints, investigated and the service temporarily stopped.

Dorset Council

In a statement Dorset Council said:

“We have not closed the soup kitchen ‘help for homeless’ in Dorchester. We have been working with the organiser and Dorchester Town Council to give food safety advice, find an appropriate location and to protect vulnerable people.

“We advised the organiser about concerns relating to food hygiene and safeguarding and that by continuing to operate he was putting himself and others at risk. We offered support, such as training, and to get the relevant procedures in place.

“We will continue to help the organisers to provide this well-meaning service, but in the meantime, there are other services that can help such as the Food Bank and Food Share Project.”

On Monday evening Dorchester town clerk Adrian Stuart told councillors that the ‘issue’ had been primarily around the need for a food hygiene certificate for volunteers. An alternative location, at Maumbury Rings, had also been investigated.

Maumbury Rings
Maumbury Rings

Mayor Cllr Richard Biggs said he had been told the service was now back in operation.

Cllr Les Fry said he had found the comments on Facebook criticising the police and the councils ‘regrettable’ when help was being offered to get the necessary food hygiene advice to allow the service to continue.

Cllr Fiona Kent-Ledger said the decisions had been made to protect those who were using the service and it was felt that, for their own safety, the group would be better in the town, rather than in Maumbury Rings. She said:

"It was felt they would be better for their own safety in a public, open environment…we didn’t feel that Maumbury Rings was a safe venue to be at all."

The service was started by former HUB volunteer, offering a two-course meal on Monday and Friday outside the library, with donations of clothing and other items also passed on to those who are homeless.

By Trevor Bevins, Local Democracy Reporter