Parents and carers who are struggling with money they owe for school meals are set to have that debt written off.
With a cost-of-living crisis affecting so many families, the move will be taken forward as part of South Lanarkshire Council’s £92 million programme of support to provide help for local people.
The programme includes assistance for people struggling with energy bills, as well as school clothing grants, support for tenants, and the council tax reduction scheme.
Council Leader Joe Fagan said: “The administration asked officers to bring forward proposals to write off school meal debt and the money has been put aside for this purpose.
“We are starting by proposing that all debt relating to P1 to P5 children who now receive Universal Free School Meals is written off, along with debt relating to children who have left school and any monies owed from before 2020-21.
“But we will go further and work with schools to review other money owed for school meals and identify further cases where it would be appropriate to write off that debt too.
“This will be a huge relief for families that are struggling to make ends meet in the ongoing cost-of-living crisis. And in the meantime, we pledge to continue to provide a school meal for all children who require one, even if they are unable to pay on the day.”
The move towards school meal debt write-off was agreed at the council’s Executive Committee meeting today (Wednesday, 21 September), with amounts involved and other details to be ratified by Elected Members at future council meetings.
The meeting was told that this would add significantly to the support that is already being provided from across the council to households in South Lanarkshire significantly impacted by the cost-of-living crisis.
Councillors heard details of various schemes, including those paid for from the Local Authority COVID Economic Recovery Fund.
These include a range of payments for eligible households, as well as support on accessing benefits and other financial advice.
In addition, the council works with schools to identify families that might benefit from targeted wellbeing assistance, administers the Scottish Welfare Fund and housing benefits locally, and provides support for council tenants in financial difficulty.
The committee saw details of a package of support worth £92m, with nearly £3m from new measures in 2022-23 and £89m from existing budgets.