Local kids miss out on free school meals after DWP blocks info sharing

Thursday 4 April 2019

Children from low income families are missing out on free school meals and help to buy school clothes and shoes because the Department of Work & Pensions (DWP) has banned Inverclyde Council departments from sharing information with each other.

The DWP currently gives the council’s finance service the information it needs to make sure poorer families get help with their council tax – Council Tax Reduction.

The same families are eligible for free school meals and school clothing grants. At the moment they have to apply for these benefits from the council’s education service.

Inverclyde Council wants to use the information supplied by the DWP to provide them automatically but the DWP insists the law does not allow the data to be reused in this way.

Councillor Stephen McCabe, Leader of Inverclyde Council, said, “The reality in Inverclyde is that one child in four lives in poverty. Between 2012 and 2016, child poverty increase by 3.9% locally.

“Some of the children who need help the most come from families where the parents have chaotic lifestyles. Applying for free school meals or school clothing grants can be beyond them. Making these benefits automatic removes the problem.

“Inverclyde Council is doing its utmost to tackle child poverty. There are few things which are a higher priority for us. We see using information from the DWP as an important step in achieving this goal.

“The DWP is more than happy to cross reference information to combat benefit fraud and, in fact, contact us last week seeking information from our social work system.

“But it has a problem with sharing information - which it has already given to one council department to pay benefits to low income families - with a different council department to allow it to pay benefits to low income families.

“It is a totally incomprehensible position as the DWP does not pay for Free School Meals or School Clothing Grants. We will be taking this fight to the Scottish Government and to CoSLA to ensure children in Inverclyde get the help they need and deserve.”

A DWP spokeswoman said, “The Welfare Reform Act and The Social Security Regulations unfortunately don’t allow the reuse of data shared for local council tax reduction, to administer school clothing grants or free school meals.”

Page last updated: 4 April 2019