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Helping Clear School Meal Debt In Scotland

16th May 2024

First Minister John Swinney has confirmed the opening of a £1.5 million fund to support councils in removing the impact of school meal debt from families across the country.

Mr Swinney said this commitment will help ensure no child is penalised for struggling to pay for school meals as a result of the cost of living crisis.

While school meal debt is ultimately a matter for local authorities, the Scottish Government is making the emergency one-off funding pot available to support councils to help remove the impact of the debt - recognising the challenges many families are facing during the ongoing cost of living crisis.

All pupils in primary one to five in Scotland, and all children in special schools, currently receive free school meals, saving families who take up the offer an average of £400 per child per year. In 2024-25, the Scottish Government is investing to extend this free provision to all pupils in primary 6 and 7 whose families receive the Scottish Child Payment as the next step towards universal provision in primary schools.

Mr Swinney said, "As First Minister, my ambition is to eradicate child poverty – and today I am pleased that we are continuing progress to ensure that no child or their family is penalised for struggling to pay for a school meal during a cost of living crisis they did not create.

"School meal debt can have a real impact on the wellbeing of families and can serve to stigmatise children whose families are going through challenging times. Local authorities can now bid to receive funding from a one-off Scottish Government fund which will support them to remove the impact of school meal debt.

“As a result of a decade and a half of austerity and a cost of living crisis caused by the UK Government, too many families are struggling to make ends meet – and my government will take all the action we can to support them.

“I am determined that we support our children to have the best start in life – that is why we are expanding free school meal provision to ensure every pupil can have a nutritious meal at school and ensuring no child is penalised simply because their family is struggling."

Funding to cancel school meal debt was confirmed in the Scottish Budget 2024-2025.

Local authorities who apply for support will receive support to clear school meal debt accrued to 31 March 2024. It is for local authorities to determine whether to apply for subsidy and only those who do apply will receive support.

 

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