Working to increase free school meal uptake in West Lothian

Every effort is being made to ensure all eligible children in West Lothian receive their free school meals.

Tuesday, 12th October 2021, 6:00 am
Updated Tuesday, 12th October 2021, 2:24 pm
Stock photo by John Devlin.

Council Executive members last week heard a progress report on the good work taking place to increase uptake of free school meals in schools across West Lothian.

In the school year 2019/20, free school meals accounted for 23% of over 2.1 million meals served to local primary and secondary children.

Free school meals are considered an important way to improve educational attainment and tackle poverty, with eligible parents/carers encouraged to apply.

This is promoted widely in school and council channels, including school handbooks, council website and social media, group calls, the council’s newspaper Bulletin and school newsletters and via targeted development workers in local schools and other council staff.

It was agreed that two new projects will be carried out to see if uptake can be increased, with West Lothian schools’ part of both Glasgow Caledonian University Scottish Poverty and Inequality Unit (SPIRU) and Test of Change projects.

Leader of West Lothian Council Lawrence Fitzpatrick said: “We know the hugely positive impact that free school meals can have on our pupils, and it’s vital that everyone who is eligible applies.

“We already do a huge amount of work to encourage uptake, and I’m delighted to see even more work taking place to understand what we can do to make sure everyone who is entitled applies.

“Receiving free school meals also means you will be eligible for other payments, such as the Family Pandemic Payments, which were worth £360 per child over the course of 2021.”

Letters have also been sent to the UK Government Minister with responsibility for the benefits system, to seek discussions about the Council being provided with relevant information to help ensure full uptake of free school meals across the county, and the Convention of Scottish Local Authorities (CoSLA) asking them to conduct a study on how councils can increase uptake.

Further letters will be sent to both CoSLA and the Scottish Government seeking confirmation that sufficient revenue and capital funding will be made available to fully fund the council’s roll out of universal provision.

For more information on free school meals and other support available to low-income families, please visit www.westlothian.gov.uk/helpwithcosts.

The Advice Shop can also check entitlement to free school meals and other benefit entitlement by completing a benefit health check for more information please visit www.westlothian.gov.uk/adviceshop or phone 01506 283000.