Parents and carers of children in Greater Cumbernauld are being encouraged to check their family’s eligibility for free school meals and clothing grants before the new school term begins and to make an application for assistance where entitled.
All Cumbernauld children in primary 1 to 4 are automatically entitled to receive a free school meal from August 2021, with this extending to include Primary 5 children from January 2022. This is a new directive of Scottish Government and applies to all children in these years regardless of their family’s financial circumstances.
However, if you have children of any age at school you may be eligible to apply for free school meals and a clothing grant if you receive certain benefits. The clothing grant scheme entitles qualifying parents to £140 for early years and primary school pupils and £150 for secondary school pupils during the 2021-22 school term.
To apply for the clothing grant, a parent or carer must be in receipt of Income Support, Jobseekers Allowance (JSA) (income-based), Employment and Support Allowance (ESA) (income related) or Universal Credit (with a maximum monthly income of £625). Families can also apply if they receive Housing Benefit or a Council Tax reduction.
The same eligibility conditions (with the exception of Housing Benefit) are applicable for free school meals, but this also includes some people in receipt of Child Tax Credit and those being provided support under the Immigration and Asylum Act 1999. Students aged between 16 and 18 and who are in receipt of any of the qualifying benefits can apply for free school meals in their own right.
Meanwhile, parents of pre-school aged children that attend a council nursery for more than four hours per day may also be entitled to a free school meal and essential clothing grant. To be eligible, families must be in receipt of any of the above highlighted qualifying benefits or be acquiring State Pension Credit or Incapacity and Severe Disablement Allowance.
Parents who meet the criteria will only benefit from these initiatives if they complete and submit a short Free School Meals and Clothing Grant Application Form to North Lanarkshire Council. First Minister Nicola Sturgeon commented:
“Child poverty in Scotland, while significantly lower than south of the border, is still far too high. I want to make ending child poverty a national mission for this cycle of Parliament.
“This will include making free breakfasts and lunches available to all primary 4 children in Scotland as the next step towards extending them to all primary school children all year round, and we will also increase the school clothing grant.”
Scottish Government has said its commitment to rolling out universal free school meals to all pupils, including primary 6 and 7, will happen by August next year. Stephen McCabe, Spokesperson for Children and Young People with local authority umbrella body COSLA, added:
“Councils across Scotland have long been committed to delivering healthy free school meals to eligible children and young people. We are pleased that, in partnership with Scottish Government, this commitment can be further expanded.
“If you are in receipt of qualifying benefits and your child has any special dietary needs this should not disqualify parents from making an application. Free school meals can be provided to children with medically diagnosed dietary needs.”
Applications to North Lanarkshire Council for free school meals and clothing grants will be processed within two weeks of submission, with parents being contacted thereafter with a payment date. Clothing grant payments will not be made until pupils return to school in the new session and this has been confirmed by the school.
Payment of clothing grants will be made by BACS transaction directly into the applicant’s bank or building society account. Applicants who do not have a bank or building society account are asked to contact North Lanarkshire Council’s Free School Meals and Clothing Grant Team on 01698 403203 or email firstname.lastname@example.org for assistance.
If a parent’s application for a clothing grant is refused and they disagree with the decision, they can submit a letter detailing the grounds on which they wish to appeal. Letters of appeal should be addressed to Head of Education and Families, North Lanarkshire Council, Civic Centre, Windmillhill Street, Motherwell, ML1 1AB.
Later this week, Cumbernauld Family Hub will profile a range of other financial supports available to local parents through a feature on Scottish Government’s Best Start Grant and Best Start Foods programme.
Pupils of Cumbernauld primary, secondary and additional support needs schools are scheduled to return to class after the summer break on Monday 16 August 2021.