Aberdeen’s policy on free school meals could be extended to more families to mitigate the rollout of Universal Credit.
Members of the city council’s education operational delivery committee have been urged to approve a change of policy which would see the provision of meals extended.
Currently, children are entitled to free school meals if their parents are in receipt of child tax credits and working tax credits with a gross annual income of up to £7,330.
Those receiving child tax credits but not working tax credits with a gross income of less than £16,105 are also eligible.
However, families who qualify for free meals through receiving child tax credits but not working tax credits would lose their entitlement if they have to move onto Universal Credit and their net earnings are more than £610 a month, or £7,320 a year.
Providing free school meals contributes to towards reducing poverty, improving attainment and general well being”
Council officers believe the number of children who would be affected is relatively low – but have urged councillors to back a policy change to ensure no child goes hungry.
A report to the committee reads: “Free school meals are vital to the health and development of children in low-income families.
“Providing free school meals contributes to towards reducing poverty, improving attainment and general well being.
“Universal Credit has implications for low-income families and entitlement to free
“There is a wide range of factors which will influence the cost to the council should it choose to use its discretion and extend the provision of free school meals to families in receipt of Universal Credit with gross annual income less than £16,105 (and not otherwise entitled to free school meals).
“Factors include transition rates from legacy benefits to Universal Credit, uptake rates for free school meals and economic factors.”
Around 8,385 children in the city receive a free school meal each day.
Estimates by council officials show 157 children would be affected by a change to Universal Credit – although as 34 of those are in P1-3, they are entitled to free meals anyway.
But the remaining 123 are at risk of losing out if their family’s income remains the same.
Officers say 150 pupils receiving free meals every day from October 26 until the end of the academic year would cost the local authority around £43,000 while extending it to cover the whole of the 2021/22 year would cost a further £60,000.
Councillors will vote on the proposals next Thursday.