Date lodged: 21 October 2016
To ask the Scottish Government, further to the answer to question S5W-03015 by John Swinney on 29 September 2016, what changes to the eligibility criteria it has introduced since 2007 to increase the availability of free school meals for children in P4 and above.
Answered by: John Swinney 18 November 2016
The criteria to qualify for free school meals is provided for in section 53(3) of the Education (Scotland) Act 1980. A number of changes have been made to the criteria since 2007 to help increase the availability of free school meals for children in primary 4 and above, particularly children and young people living in low income households.
The Education (School Lunches) (Scotland) Regulations 2009 extended the eligibility criteria for a free school lunch to pupils in receipt of, and to pupils with parents in receipt of child tax credit and working tax credit (based on income not exceeding an amount specified by Regulations under the Tax Credits Act 2002 – the Tax Credits (Income Thresholds and Determination of Rates) Regulations 2002).
The Education (School Lunches) (Scotland) Amendment Regulations 2013 prescribed the receipt of universal credit to include pupils in receipt of, and to pupils with parents in receipt of universal credit, as an eligibility criterion for free school meals. This was an interim measure intended to protect access to free school meals during the early stages of its roll out. The Scottish Government is currently working with the Convention of Scottish Local Authorities (COSLA) to consider the eligibility criteria for free school meals under universal credit in the future.
In 2015, amendments to section 53 of the Education Act (Scotland) 1980 made via the Children and Young People (Scotland) Act 2014 gave education authorities new powers to provide school meals free of charge to pupils who satisfy such conditions as the authority thinks fit. Information about the use of this power is not held centrally.
The answer to question S5W-03014 on 29 September 2016, sets out the changes (both increases and decreases) since 2007 to income threshold for free school meal eligibility linked to the receipt of child tax credit by a parent or pupil (and not working tax credit). All answers to written Parliamentary Questions are available on the Parliament's website, the search facility for which can be found at http://www.parliament.scot/parliamentarybusiness/28877.aspx.