HC Deb 23 June 1953 vol 516 cc129-31W
Lieut-Commander Hutchison

asked the Secretary of State for Scotland if he will make a statement on the 'remission of charges for school dinners in cases of financial hardship.

Mr. J. Stuart

When the recent increase in the charges for school dinners was made education authorities were asked to consider whether their arrangements for the grant of remissions required amendment in order to avoid financial hardship; and the new Meals Service (Scotland) Regulations issued at the time required all authorities to include in their schemes of charges arrangements for partial as well as total remissions.

Prior to the recent increase in the charges all authorities had arrangements for granting total remission of charges on grounds of financial hardship, but only 16 out of the 35 granted partial remissions. As a result of the new regulations all education authorities now have arrangements for granting partial as well as total remission of oharges on grounds of financial hardship. In addition 26 authorities now have arrangements for reduced charges for large families as compared with 14 prior to the increase.

For the guidance of authorities a model scheme containing provisions for the remission of charges in whole or in part on grounds of financial hardship and for reduced charges for large families was issued on 6th February. Thirteen education authorities accepted the suggestions in the model scheme and the remainder submitted schemes on similar lines.

The effect of the provisions for remissions in the model scheme is that when a parent applies for remission his income is assessed in accordance with regulations of the National Assistance Board and if, on this basis, the resource of the household do not exceed the household requirements the whole charge is remitted. When resources exceed requirements by not more than 30s. the charge is remitted except for a sum equal to half of the excess, leaving half a crown out of account. Where the excess is over 30s. the first 30s. is dealt with as described and the remainder of the excess is taken into account.

According to returns obtained from education authorities in April, the charge was remitted for 18 per cent. of the children taking school dinners in whole and for 2 per cent. in part. In addition 20 per cent. of the children received meals at the reduced charges for large families.

Education authorities have taken steps to make known to parents the revised arrangements for the remission of charges. These steps include the issue of pamphlets, advertisements in the local Press and the dissemination of information through the schools. I hope to have by the end of June further returns from education authorities showing the numbers of children taking dinners in that month and the extent to which charges have been remitted in whole or in part or reduced for large families; and in the light of that return it is proposed to discuss with the Association of County Councils and the Association of Counties of Cities the operation of the arrangements for the remission or reduction of charges.