£188,181.68 school meal debt in the North East Region should be written off by relevant local authorities, Maggie Chapman, MSP for North East Scotland and Scottish Green Spokesperson for Justice, Equality, Human Rights and Economy has said.
A Freedom of Information request submitted by the Scottish Greens has found that children and families in Aberdeen City alone owe £114,690.34, with the national figure totalling over £968k.
In other local authorities in North East Scotland, including Aberdeenshire, Angus, Dundee City, and Moray, families owe a combined total of £73,491.34. This is despite all P1-5 pupils in Scotland now being entitled to a free school meal.
Commenting Ms Chapman said: “Children can’t get a good education if they’re hungry at school. I believe that most local authorities rightly ensure every pupil has a meal at lunchtime, even if they don’t have the money to cover it, but these figures make it clear that debts are being chased from families who simply cannot pay.
“With the cost of living crisis putting huge pressure on family finances, it is absolutely essential that local authorities write off all outstanding school meal debt.
"Pursuing the debt is causing stress and embarrassment for pupils and their families as well as the school staff who I know are deeply uncomfortable asking pupils for money they know the family does not have.
“I’m proud that as a result of the cooperation agreement between the Greens and SNP, the Scottish Government is rolling out free school meals to all primary school children, as well as taking other measures to help family budgets such as free bus travel for under 22s.
“Writing off this debt would be an excellent way for local authorities in the North East to also help families with the financial burdens they face, rather than add to them.”