Coun­cil pleased with free meals and uni­form pol­icy

Leader­hail­snewsys­temasuc­cess

Hamilton Advertiser - - NEWS - Ste­fanie Mccourt

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

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