COSLA Publish Good Practice Principles for Managing School Meal Debt - 20th February 2023
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A set of good practice principles for the management of School Meal debt have today (Monday 20th February) been published by COSLA.

The principles, which are a first for Scotland, and have been developed by COSLA, with partners from across Local Government, have been produced to promote good practice in the management of school meal debt, whilst retaining a level of flexibility to enable local authorities to design and implement approaches which align with the unique needs and circumstances of their communities.

Decisions around school meal debt management, including all aspects of policy and practice, remain at the discretion of each local authority. However these principles may be useful for supporting the review and development of local authority school meal debt policy and practice, as well as supporting effective implementation on an ongoing basis. The intended audience for these principles is local authority staff across a range of departments (including, for example, education, catering, finance and debt collection) as well as Head Teachers, class teachers and other school staff.

Commenting as he launched the principles COSLA’s Children and Young People Spokesperson Councillor Tony Buchanan said:

"As Local Government we’re committed to tackling child poverty and ensuring that all children and young people can engage fully in their education, free from barriers. This has never been more important than now, as families continue to face the impact of rising costs.

COSLA recognises that school meal debt is an emotive issue but one that is complex. We’ve worked closely with colleagues in the third sector in response to the research they’ve highlighted, and have developed an agreed set of principles for councils to consider when making decisions on local policy and practice.

I’m pleased that these new principles will support councils to reflect good practice in their management of school meal debt, as part of their own, locally responsive, approaches to supporting children, young people, and families.”

Martin Canavan, Head of Policy and Participation at Aberlour children’s charity, said:

“The level of school meal debt in Scotland is concerning and has been rising due to the cost of living crisis. Low income families not eligible for free school meals are struggling to feed their children, and many are accruing school meal debt as a result. We need to respond better, with compassion and empathy, to those families and make sure that no child will go hungry at school or is stigmatised by the processes in place for any child to access a meal in school.

We welcome these school meal debt good practice principles that Cosla has published. These can help councils and schools respond to the issue of school meal debt consistently, sensitively and in a way that recognises the financial pressures and anxiety that low income families face. Embedding these principles in practice will help further Scotland’s commitment to the UNCRC and every child’s right to healthy and nutritious food.”

Read COSLA's Good Practice Principles for Management of School Meal Debt here.