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Could you be missing out on free school meals?

Could you be missing out on free school meals?
05 July 2021

More families than ever before in Orkney are benefiting from free school meals and the school clothing allowance – however, OIC is urging anyone who may still be missing out to check to see whether or not they are entitled.

The grants are linked, and the Scottish Government and Council Leaders have agreed to increase the clothing grant to £150 for an eligible secondary student and £120 for an eligible primary school pupil.

Over the past academic year, the OIC has paid nearly 270 free school meal and clothing grants- with around 170 and 100 pupils benefiting in primary and secondary schools respectively.

Council Leader James Stockan continues to highlight the importance of families checking their eligibility.

“We have been appealing to families to check whether or not they are entitled to free school meals as there have been, and may well be, further Covid-19 related grants available as a direct result of this. So, families will not only benefit from free school meals, an increased school clothing allowance but further financial support during these extraordinary times. A number of clothing grants have already been paid out at the previous rate of £100 per pupil – we assure families that the increased amount will also be paid out as soon as possible.

“We have been raising awareness of these benefits and urging families to apply – so far nearly 40 additional families have come forward and discovered they are entitled – this means many more children benefiting.

“We further announced recently that almost 150 families – nearly 270 pupils - in Orkney are to benefit from free school meal financial support over the summer holidays.

“The Council has agreed to make a payment of £2.50 per weekday for each P1-S6 pupil who qualifies - with a single payment of £90 being made to cover the entire holiday period for each eligible child/young person.

“We simply do not want anyone missing out on benefits to which they are entitled. We are trying to make the application process as easy as possible for families and we have staff on standby to help if necessary.”

The Council’s 2021/2022 applications for both allowances now open and can be applied for via the Council website at https://www.orkney.gov.uk/school-benefit

For anyone who is unable to access the online application form they can call 01856 873535 and a paper copy form will be posted to them. Anyone having difficulty filling out the forms should contact the Council Offices and ask for Heather Manson or Natalie Olsen on 01856 873535 extension 2416 or 2450.

Applications require to be made every year, and so far in 2021/2022, 76 eligible children are set to benefit – 50 within primary and 26 in secondary. The numbers are rising daily.

Councillor Stockan added: “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 being further rolled out to all P1-5 pupils over the coming months. 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 and have received not only free school meals and the clothing allowance but £200 per child in cash payments as a result of special Covid-related grants at winter and spring. By applying now, it may open up further pandemic support grants to them.”

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 £625.
  • Child Tax Credit only – income must be under £16,190.
  • Child Tax Credit and Working Tax Credit – income must be under £7,500.
  • Support under Part VI of Immigration and Asylum Act 1999.

Notes - Children attending nursery for full days and children in P1-P3 are automatically entitled to receive free school meals – a further 230 or so P4 pupils will now also be entitled to have free school meals from August 2021.

P5 pupils (a further 210 or so in Orkney) will also be entitled to free school meals from January 2022 and there has been a Scottish Government commitment to roll out universal free school meals to all primary pupils, including P6 and P7 by August 2022.

Further information is available on the Council website.

School Place, Kirkwall, Orkney, KW15 1NY

Telephone: 01856 873535

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Orkney Islands Council: BOREAS DOMUS MARE AMICUS