Council agrees to write off £64,000 lunch debt for school pupils

Some local authorities previously called in debt collectors to retrieve unpaid costs for school lunches from struggling families.

Edinburgh council agrees to write off £64,000 lunch debt for school pupils PA Media

School meal debt owed in Edinburgh totalling £64,000 will be wiped by the city council to ease the cost of living for the hit hardest.

A one-off £100 payment will also be given to the 8,832 free school meal entitled families in the capital as part of the support package agreed by councillors on Thursday.

The costs will be covered with £1,212,000 unallocated cash from the 2021/22 budget, with £128,000 being set aside for to further alleviate school meal hardship in the coming year, which a report noted is ‘subject to audit’.

A report said analysis of evidence from money advice services across Edinburgh showed a rise in the number of people seeking support for rising food and fuel costs, debt, housing issues and claiming benefits.

It comes as energy regulator Ofgem confirms household bills will average £3,549 a year from 1 October, with projections indicating they could reach £6,000 by April.

The report added: “The main drivers of these increasing pressures are international and macroeconomic, and the tools to make the most effective direct solutions are largely in the hands of national governments – through, for instance, social security systems, taxation, and market regulation.

“Local government and partners, however, do have a role to play in addressing the cost of living crisis.”

Edinburgh’s community planning partnership met to consider “areas where additional support in the city is needed, and what partnership actions could have the greatest impact”.

The partnership “noted the importance of direct cash support to preventing immediate crisis” and welcomed £7.535m previously approved by the council to ease the cost of living crisis.

Going before councillors this week, the Labour administration and Conservative group voted against using up reserve funds “in view of wider pressures and commitments affecting 2022/23”. However, a majority of members in the chamber backed the proposals.

SNP group leader at Edinburgh City Council, Adam McVey, said: “I’m grateful to colleagues across most parties for supporting the SNP motion by Cllr Marco Biagi to take action to help folk through the Tory cost of living crisis.

“Council has now signed off payments of £100 for every child in receipt of school meal vouchers that will be paid directly to people’s bank accounts.

“Council also agreed to clear family debts for school meals – helping take another burden off of hard-pressed families. This will all make a real difference for families struggling to make ends meet.”

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