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Aberdeenshire Council welcomes Government support for those with school meal debt

By David Porter

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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 a move which has been welcomed by Aberdeenshire Council.

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.

Central funding will help Scottish council’s tackle school meal debt.
Central funding will help Scottish council’s tackle school meal debt.

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 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..

An Aberdeenshire Council spokesperson said: “We have received information from the Scottish Government regarding the new fund and are currently assessing outstanding debt. We would intend to apply for any available funding in accordance with the conditions laid down. We always work with families to ensure that appropriate support is provided and we offer a referral system for discretionary access to free school meals or alternative provision, ensuring pupils and families receive support when needed. There is also a panel that can consider applications and make discretionary payments where there is no statutory eligibility for free school meals. If anyone is struggling with school meal debt, please get in contact our Free School Meal team by emailing FSM@aberdeenshire.gov.uk or calling 01467 533400.”

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