East Renfrewshire: Council urged to write off school meals debt

EAST Renfrewshire Council is being urged to write off thousands of pounds owed by cash-strapped families for unpaid school meals.

New figures released under freedom of information laws show families in the area have racked up collective debts totaling more than £18,000.

The Scottish Greens investigation found that more than £1million in total was due for unpaid school meals in 29 local authorities across the country.

Ross Greer, who represents East Renfrewshire as Green MSP for the West of Scotland, said canceling the debt would help families facing financial hardship.

He told the Barrhead News: “Children cannot get a good education if they are hungry at school.

“Most councils will rightly ensure that every pupil has a midday meal, even if they don’t have the money to cover it, but these figures clearly show that debt is being driven away from families who cannot just not paying.

“With the current cost of living crisis putting enormous strain on family finances, now is a good time to write off any outstanding debt for school meals.

“The continued debt causes stress and embarrassment for students and their families, but I have also spoken to school staff who hate being put in the position of asking students for money they know that the family did not.

“Cancelling this amazing debt would be a great way for councils to also help families with the financial burdens they face”

A spokesperson for East Renfrewshire Council told the Barrhead News: ‘All children who need a school meal always get one.

“We have processes in place to try to collect the school meals debt, although discretion is always used to ensure families receive as much support as possible in the event of financial hardship.

“These figures also include debts which are a real oversight of parents and which will be paid in due time.”

A spokeswoman for Cosla, which represents Scottish councils, added: ‘All councils are working closely with families to deal with hardship and where necessary provide financial support but, given the recent regulations of local governments, there is a real balance for councils between generating revenue for frontline services and targeted support to families in need.

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