Councillors write off unpaid school meals fees

Councillors have agreed to write off £32,000 of unpaid school meals fees. 

More than 4,000 children in poverty

The move comes after an independent study commissioned for the council found 4,400 children - just under a quarter of children in Midlothian - were living in poverty.

More cost of living supports

In the face of the cost of living crisis, councillors also approved a recommendation at today’s full Council meeting to create a cost of a school day policy looking at more ways to support struggling families. 

Not a surprise

Council Leader Councillor Kelly Parry said: “The findings of this report make depressing reading but unfortunately, they don’t come as a surprise.

Cost of living taskforce set up

“We set up the cost of living taskforce last summer because so many families were bearing the brunt of escalating costs and soaring inflation rates.

A lot achieved

“While we’ve achieved a lot in a relatively short space of time, this report is a reminder that more is needed.

Standard of living

“No child, or indeed anyone, should be without a nutritious meal or live in poverty.”

Heat or eat

The study found that up to 21,000 Midlothian adults cannot afford to turn on the heat in their homes to keep warm or eat a balanced meal.

Adults going hungry

In one month alone, 8,000 adults went hungry because they did not have enough money to buy food.

Impacting mental health

Meanwhile an estimated 34,000 people are worried about energy bills and 16,000 people said their mental health had declined.

More than £1.3 million of spending support

The report lists the actions already set up by the cost of living taskforce using £1.36m of Covid recovery funds.

Funding for foodbanks

They include establishing a Heat and Eat fund for those unsuccessful in Scottish Welfare Fund applications, warm and well hubs providing warm space, hot drinks and soup and funding Woodburn Pantry and supporting other foodbanks or similar projects.

Next steps

A report setting out more recommendations, actions and next steps, for dealing with the cost of living crisis facing adults in the county, will be brought back to the taskforce as soon as possible.

9 May 2023