All outstanding school meal debt that existed prior to the current school year (2022-23) will be cancelled – a total of £36,392. Affected families will be contacted by school staff or facilities management.
Areas of improvement have also been identified to ensure there is a consistent procedure in place for managing school meal payments, including support for those families who need it.
In June 2022, it was agreed by Council to create a fund of £40,000 from COVID recovery funding, to write off the outstanding debt identified for this period.
Reduce some of the anxiety and uncertainty
Stirling Council Leader, Cllr Chris Kane said: “I’m pleased we are now moving forward with this plan to write-off historical school meal debt in full.
“This measure will reduce some of the anxiety and uncertainty for low-income families across Stirling who may be struggling to make ends meet amid the ongoing cost of living crisis.
“The new procedures will also ensure hard-pressed families are not pursued for school meal debts in the future and will be helped to access the necessary financial supports.”
Free school meals are available for all P1-P5 pupils – with P6 and P7 pupils expected to join this roll-out in August 2023 – and all other children and young people who need them.
The initiative was part of an update report from the Cost of Living Member/Officer Group at Thursday’s (8 Dec) full meeting of Council.
The group was established in June 2022 to keep abreast of the ongoing cost of living crisis, and to make recommendations for support to be provided to residents.
In March 2022, the Council pledged £1.9M to fund one-off initiatives that would ease some of the pressure on local residents who may be struggling financially.
The report provided an update on some of these measures. This included how the Council has committed a proportion of the Local Authority COVID Economic Recovery Fund (LACER) to extend the reach of fuel payments to low-income families.
This has enabled the Council to increase the planned fuel payment from £100 to £140 for more than 5,300 hard-pressed households in Stirling, and 350 homeless people in receipt of Housing Benefit.
The use of LACER funding has also increased the number of grants made to Stirling’s community organisations and community-facing services who provide specialist, targeted provision, through the Council’s Cost of Living Fund.
Applications to the Fund, which awards grants up to £35K, far exceeded the initial £150K of available funding in October.
Every resource at our disposal
Cllr Kane added: “We’ll continue to do all we can, using every resource at our disposal, to help our residents over the winter months and get this funding to those most in need. And if you need help, support is available so please reach out.”
For more information on free schools meals and other financial supports for families head to the Stirling Council website.
Details on the wide-ranging supports offered by the Council’s Advice Services and Welfare Reform Team can be found here.