Staff have ‘unexpectedly’ lost their jobs after the sudden closure of a hot meal delivery service provided to vulnerable people in Dorset.

St Jude’s Care Catering has closed down without any notice – leaving staff members and clients wondering what had happened.

The catering business delivered hot lunches in the Weymouth and Dorchester areas to mainly elderly, infirm or immobile people. 

It was part of the St Jude’s Care Group which also provides care to the elderly and vulnerable.

In a statement issued by the care provider it says it made the decision with a ‘heavy heart’ due to ‘insurmountable challenges’ brought on by rising costs to food, power, and lighting.

However, without any notice to staff or customers, the hot meal delivery service disappeared leaving people without jobs and the vulnerable without a hot meal.

A employee of the service, who wished to remain anonymous, said: “It happened overnight.  Staff and clients were not given any notice or warning that a closure was coming.

“It was a lifeline to many, and all clients that I served certainly looked forward to the visit. 

"You could see it on their faces as I entered their home or care home apartment; their faces lit up as they got themselves ready to eat, a home cooked meal.” 

He added: “Some clients were returnees from hospital and recovering at home after an operation, some were waiting to attend hospital and were immobile and some were receiving care packages in their homes. 

“I thoroughly enjoyed visiting them and seeing how happy they were to receive that meal.” 

The catering company operated out of the an industrial unit on the Granby Industrial Estate in Chickerell and was shared with The Dorset Pie Company, which was operated and owned by the same people.

The pie company set up in 2021 has also ceased trading and customers are no longer able to order pies for delivery from their website.

A spokesperson for St Jude’s Care Catering said: “It is with a heavy heart that we announce the closure of St. Jude's Care Catering.

“Despite our best efforts, the company has been compelled to cease trading due to insurmountable challenges stemming from increased costs in food, power, and lighting, compounded by inflationary pressures across the board.

“Regrettably, there is no state funding available for this vital service, and we have been unable to pass on these escalating costs to our valued clients.

“Despite trading at a loss for an extended period, St. Jude's Care Catering has been sustained by the support of its sister company, St. Jude's Care, until it became financially untenable to continue.

“We extend our deepest gratitude to all our clients for their unwavering loyalty and support throughout the years. Your kind letters of understanding and encouragement have been a source of strength during this challenging time. We want to assure you that this decision was not made lightly, and every effort was made to explore alternative solutions.

“We take pride in the fact that St. Jude's Care Catering has always gone above and beyond to serve our clients, even during adverse circumstances, including trading throughout the pandemic and during events like the "Beast from the East”. When our chefs were unable to commute, we ensured the provision of a cold meal service, demonstrating our commitment to our customers.

“During this difficult transition period, we are dedicated to supporting our clients, so for the next two weeks, we will continue to provide a cold meal service while people make alternative arrangements. Additionally, clients have the option to cancel with immediate effect should they prefer.

“We want to reassure our clients that the main business operations of St. Jude's Care remain unaffected by this decision. We stand ready to assist with alternative arrangements, including providing assistance with lunch preparations or any other support needed from our dedicated caregivers.

“Once again, we express our heartfelt appreciation to our customers for their support over the years. It has been an honour to deliver this service and we are deeply saddened by the circumstances that led to this outcome.”