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Published by Scottish Council for Voluntary Organisations

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Scottish Government "can't remain blind" over school meals debt


Families are struggling to afford the most basic necessities for children

School meal debt needs urgent intervention, according to a leading children's charity.

Aberlour has urged the Scottish Government to begin monitoring levels of school meal debt after stats showed a rise in child poverty in Scotland.

Despite a one-off clearing of arrears, the charity says there is still a concerning lack of monitoring of the critical role this type of debt plays in understanding the financial strain within households.

With the beginning of the new financial year this week, ministers have been told they must coordinate a standardised reporting of school meal debt from Scottish local authorities, to be published either quarterly/bi-annually/annually.

This initiative aims to foster transparency, accountability, and long-term planning in the fight against child hunger and food insecurity.

Martin Canavan head of policy at Aberlour said: “That school meal debt even exists should shame us as a society. No child should ever be burdened with debt and no child should ever go hungry in a country as rich as ours - the Government must not remain blind to the levels of school meal debt in our country.  

“Aberlour is demanding that governments must put in place measures to prevent school meal debt in the first place and providing free school meals for all low income working families would prevent school meal debt and tackle hidden school hunger.

“In the meantime, we must see the Government ensure that all local authorities are monitoring and reporting the level of school meal debt so that it can inform efforts to help families in need.

“Ultimately, school meal debt serves as a stark indicator of financial strain within households. Ignoring this will only perpetuate inequality and deepen child poverty.”

Campaigners from the charity say that while that debt relief will provide temporary respite, it is imperative in the longer term to tackle the drivers of poverty and debt - mainly low pay and insufficient welfare support - but it must also extend the eligibility criteria for free school meals to protect more families struggling to feed their children at home or at school from incurring debt in the first place.

If the government will not widen the upfront eligibility it must at least adopt a proactive approach towards monitoring and addressing school meal debt on a continuous basis, they say.



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