School meal debt: letter from the First Minister

Letter from First Minister Humza Yousaf confirming support for councils to help remove the impact of school meal debt.

To: Gill Smith, Editor in Chief, the Scottish Sun

From: First Minister Humza Yousaf

Dear Gill,

Thank you for your joint letter on behalf of The Scottish Sun, and SallyAnn Kelly OBE, Chief Executive Officer, Aberlour regarding school meal debt and the impact on families.

I would like to thank Aberlour and The Scottish Sun for their ongoing work highlighting this important issue.  You will be aware that the Scottish Government is committed to supporting families across Scotland during these difficult economic times – including the game-changing Scottish Child Payment as part of a package of measures which are seeing an estimated 90,000 fewer children in Scotland live in poverty this year.  However, we are not complacent and continue to look at ways we can further support people across the country.

I am a strong believer that we need to ensure our children and young people have the best start in life and therefore it is important that they can have access to healthy and nutritious meals as part of their learning. That is why Scotland has the most comprehensive free school meal offer of any nation in the UK, saving families an average of £400 per eligible child per year, and we are committed to expanding this offer further.

I am aware that school meal debt can have a significant impact on the mental wellbeing of families and where any family is experiencing difficulties, in the first instance we expect local authorities to use the powers available to them to provide necessary support.

While school meal debt is ultimately a matter for councils, I am a conscious of the fact that we are in the midst of a cost-of-living crisis as a result of Brexit and the UK Government’s disastrous mismanagement of the economy.

As a result, I know that many families across Scotland are struggling to make ends meet.  That is why, recognising the particular challenges people are facing during the cost-of-living crisis, I can confirm that the Scottish Government will bring forward a one-off, emergency fund to support councils to help remove the impact of school meal debt.  Details on this fund will be set out to Parliament in early course.

I hope you will agree that this is a positive step in supporting families at this time and ensuring that people are not punished for struggling during a cost living crisis caused by the UK Government.

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