Council pleased with free meals and uniform policy
South Lanarkshire Council leader John Ross has praised the local authority’s free school meals and uniform grants policy.
It comes after the council changed its policy earlier this year to move towards ‘automated entitlement’ to free school meals and £100 clothing grants.
The authority now uses data about benefits to proactively identify those families whose children would be entitled to meals and clothing grants, and automatically provides them – removing the requirement for a formal application.
The number of free school meals and clothing grants are each expected to rise by about 20 per cent in this school year. More than 12,000 pupils will benefit from a clothing grant in 2018/19, while 8300 will automatically get free school meals.
Councillor Ross said: “Two of our key pledges at the council elections were to give children the best start in life and to cut the attainment gap in our schools. This policy really delivers on both.
“We knew that, for a number of reasons, some pupils weren’t getting free meals or clothing and footwear grants even though they were entitled to them.
“What we’ve done is taken any doubts, and the paperwork, out of the equation. If a pupil is entitled to a free school meal or a uniform grant, they simply get it.
“We took another good decision on this in June when we resisted an attempt to have the value of the grant increased to use up all the money that was available when the Scottish Government increased its contribution to set the minimum grant at £100.
“Given the higher than expected numbers we now have, that proposal would have added significant pressure to the budget for this policy.
“So I’m pleased we stuck with our plans, as a result of which every one of these thousands of pupils can now get the free meals and £100 clothing grants which will help them make the most of their time at school.”
Uniform payments for entitled pupils in South Lanarkshire increased from £50 last summer to £100 this year after the Scottish Government introduced a minimum allowance for eligible parents.
Anti-poverty campaigners say that SLC’S £100 grant still falls £30 short of the recommended amount, leaving struggling parents short-changed.
South Lanarkshire Labour’s education spokesperson, Councillor Lynsey Hamilton, praised the council for moving towards automated entitlement, but insisted the £100 should have been increased. She said: “It is clear from these figures that auto enrolment is working well, which we as a Labour group support.
“However, it is disappointing that at the start of the summer, when they were given the chance to increase the School Clothing Grant, the SNP administration chose to vote with the Tories against Labour’s proposal.”
SNP Council leader John Ross
Labour Cllr Lynsey Hamilton