Free School Meals and Clothing Allowance
Let’s Talk Money – free school meals and clothing allowance
The Council’s new “Let’s Talk Money” scheme is kicking off with its focus on free school meals and the clothing allowance.
The scheme has been launched by Council Quality Improvement Officer, Wendy Bowen, as she strives to ensure that children do not miss out on achieving and attaining at school as a result of financial strains within the home.
She said: “We are encouraging families to check whether or not they may be entitled to free school meals and/or school clothing allowance. Your circumstances may have changed, and you may now be entitled.
“We simply do not want anyone missing out on benefits to which they are entitled. We have tried to make the application process as easy as possible for families and there’s staff on standby to help if necessary.
“There is an historic sense of ‘under claiming’ – and it is a sensitive issue. We fear that some families don’t want to be seen to be in the ‘free meals’ category. However, it is an ‘entitlement’ and nobody should be embarrassed or worried about accessing it as it is an entirely confidential process and the entitlement of universal free school meals is now includes all P1-P5 pupils. This is going some way to help reduce any perceived stigma attached.
“We would also urge families to apply as it also has a knock-on beneficial effect for school budgets. For schools, some of the direct funding (Pupil Equity Fund) is determined by free meal numbers, so in effect schools’ budgets are in effect ‘harmed’ by low numbers of uptake.
“At the heart of this are families who are entitled, and we want to ensure you can access those benefits. We have had families apply not sure at all that they would be eligible only to discover they were.”
Pupils are eligible if their families receive any of the following benefits or support:
- Income Support.
- Income-based Job Seekers’ Allowance.
- Income-related Employment and Support Allowance.
- Universal Credit where the monthly earned income does not exceed £726
- Child Tax Credit only – income must be under £18,725
- Child Tax Credit and Working Tax Credit – income must be under £8,717
- Support under Part VI of Immigration and Asylum Act 1999.
Children attending nursery for full days and children in P1-P5 are automatically entitled to receive free school meals. However, families may be eligible for a clothing allowance for their child if they are in receipt of any of the above benefits.
Over the past academic year, the OIC has paid 296 free school meals and clothing grants – with 170 and 126 pupils benefiting in primary and secondary schools respectively.
The clothing grant is £150 for an eligible secondary student and £120 for an eligible primary school pupil.
Families may also be eligible for school meal payments during the holiday periods.
The Council’s 2023/2024 applications for both allowances are open and can be applied for via the Council website’s School Benefit page.
For anyone who is unable to access the online application form they can visit Customer Services or call 01856 873535 to receive a paper copy form. Anyone having difficulty filling out the forms should contact the Council Offices and ask for Leanne Tait on 01856 873535 extension 2422.
Applications require to be made every year.
Further information is available here on the Council website’s School Meals and Clothing Allowances page.
Many schools also have a “swapshop” where uniforms can be “shared” among parents as children grow up and out of sizes. Others have a stockpile of donated uniforms which parents can purchase for a very small donation. Get in touch with your school to find out more.