Glasgow City Council is set to remove all school meal debt. Combating Hunger.
Glasgow City Council is set to eradicate outstanding school meal debts in an effort to alleviate the financial burden on struggling families. A proposal from the SNP is slated for a vote on Thursday, 30 March, and it is anticipated that other political parties will support the initiative.
If passed, reserve funds will be utilized to eliminate the existing debt, estimated to be around £300,000. Councillor Christina Cannon expressed her belief that this action will guarantee that “no child is denied food in school, regardless of their ability to pay when it is time to eat.”
The rising cost of living and food inflation have exacerbated food insecurity in Glasgow, with levels not seen in decades, according to Cannon. A recent health and wellbeing census released by the Scottish government revealed that nearly 60% of students sometimes went to school or bed hungry, with 3% claiming they always went to bed hungry.
Earlier this month, the Feed the Weans campaign was initiated, with Unite union, Scottish Trades Union Congress, and Together Against Debt activists protesting outside Glasgow’s city chambers. They demanded an end to means-based free school meals, urging the government to provide meals for all children in Glasgow and eliminate school meal debt.
It is worth noting that Glasgow City Council has already written off some school meal debts during the Covid pandemic.
Cannon, the education committee convener, submitted a motion requesting that the council erase the current school debt held centrally. Reserve funds will be used to “write off debt held locally, where that debt is over and above the equivalent of one month’s worth of meals.”
Joe Rollin, a senior Unite organizer, described Glasgow’s food poverty as “absolutely shameful.” He stated that if approved, the council’s actions would be “a really significant step forward for families” and urged the council to end means-testing and guarantee all children receive a free school dinner.
Currently, primary one to five students receive free school meals, saving parents £9.50 per week. A council spokesperson stated that over 50% of Glasgow families are eligible for free school meals. From August, P6 and P7 students from families who receive the £25 weekly Scottish Child Payment (SCP) will also receive free meals. Presently, lunch for P6 and P7 students costs £1.90.
Cannon’s motion requests councillors to reaffirm their commitment to extending free school meals to all primary school students once funding from the Scottish government is secured. Prior to the 2021 Scottish Parliament election, the SNP pledged to provide a free breakfast and lunch to all P1-P7 children by August 2022.
Free school lunches were subsequently extended to P4 and P5 students, saving families an average of £400 per year. However, the implementation of this policy for P6 and P7 students has been postponed.
A spokesperson for the Scottish government announced that the additional investment in the 2023-24 Budget would fund the expansion for children in those years whose families receive the weekly SCP. The spokesperson added, “This will be the next step in fulfilling our commitment to universal provision in primary schools.”
“Councils have the power to make discretionary offers of free school meals to families experiencing financial hardship due to exceptional circumstances, who do not meet the regular eligibility criteria.”
Currently, children can receive free school lunches if their parents are recipients of:
- Universal credit (with a monthly-earned income of not more than £660)
- Income support, income-based job seeker’s allowance, or income-based employment and support allowance
- Support through the Immigration and Asylum Act
- Child tax credit without working tax credit and an income of less than £17,005
- Both child tax credit and working tax credit with an income of
Glasgow City Council is poised to write off unpaid school meal debt in a bid to ease pressure on hard-up families.
Now in motion – Here.