Renfrewshire Council

How we handle school meal debt

How school meal debt happens, how we manage school meal debt, preventing school meal debt, help and support.

How school meal debt happens

Debt on meal accounts happens when there is not enough money to pay for a school meal, snack or drink on a child's meal account. 

Children in primary 1 to 5 and any child or young person entitled to a free school meal in primary 6 and above will receive a school meal free of charge. However, snacks and additional drinks are not included in the free meal. If a child buys food or drink and there is not enough money in a child's meal account to pay for it, this will result in debt. 

Most meal accounts only ever go into debt by £5 or less before money is added by the child's parents or carers. There is usually no need for the school or council teams to contact parents and carers about this debt. 

Money on meal accounts is handled through ParentPay, an online cashless system. Parents and carers can manage the money in their child's meal account through this system. 

See information about ParentPay

Children will always receive a school meal regardless of the balance on their meal account. 

How we manage school meal debt

Debts of £15 or more 

If your child's meal account goes into debt by £15 or more, we'll:  

  • send you a letter alerting you to the outstanding balance 
  • send you the letter every week that your debt stays above £15. 

If the debt remains unpaid after the first letter, the school will contact you and discuss if any additional help and support can be offered. They'll help process any referrals to partner organisations and do this in confidence. 

Debts of £100 or more

If there is no known reason for the debt and all support provided hasn't resolved the matter, the debt will be passed onto the council's debt recovery team to pursue. We'll never pass your debt to an external debt collection agency. 

We'll continue to offer help and support to any parents or carer with more than £100 in debt. 

Preventing school meal debt 

ParentPay has an auto top up function that allows you to make sure your child's meal account is always in credit. You can find a guide on how to do that on their website. 

See how to auto top-up your child's balance (ParentPay)

Help and support 

You can talk to your child's school at any time for help and support. 

Advice on money and benefits is also available from the Council and partner organisations.  

See where to get money and benefits advice.