Eat Out to Help Out cuts cost of school dinners during August

By Jonathan Peters
BBC Scotland news

Image source, Reuters
Image caption,
"Eat Out to Help Out' operates in schools as it does in other restaurants and bars

Parents in half of Scotland's council areas are paying less for school meals because of the "Eat Out to Help Out" scheme.

Sixteen out of 32 local authorities signed up to the Treasury scheme, which offers a 50% discount on meals from Monday to Wednesday throughout August.

Many councils, however, did not apply, with one saying the time and resources required meant it was "not viable".

A typical saving for each school meal is less than £1.50.

Children eligible for free school meals are unaffected and the discount only benefits parents who normally pay for their children's canteen food.

Which councils are taking part?

The full list of councils that signed up to the "eat out to help out" scheme is:

  • Aberdeen City
  • Aberdeenshire
  • Comhairle nan Eilean Siar
  • Dumfries and Galloway
  • Dundee
  • East Ayrshire Council
  • East Lothian Council
  • East Renfrewshire
  • Fife
  • Inverclyde
  • Moray
  • North Ayrshire
  • Shetland Islands
  • South Lanarkshire
  • West Dunbartonshire
  • West Lothian

The scheme was introduced by the UK government to help the hospitality industry get back on its feet as the country emerged from the coronavirus lockdown.

It operates in schools as it does in other restaurants and bars, by offering a 50% discount on food and non-alcoholic drinks, up to a maximum of £10 discount per diner.

The Treasury has set aside £500m to fund the policy, which was used more than 10m times in its first week across the hospitality sector.

While it can be used by staff and pupils every Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday until Monday 31 August in participating council areas, the scheme has not benefited schools south of the border because the new term starts later.

The BBC is not responsible for the content of external sites.View original tweet on Twitter

Vivienne Cross, Moray Council's head of education, said: "Taking advantage of the 'eat out to help out' scheme feels like a small gesture that will make a big difference to families, who still face a lot of uncertainty."

She added: "Anything we can do to help our families at this time is being considered and we're sure this scheme will be a welcome boost as schools return."

Why did some councils decide not to apply?

Image source, PA Media
Image caption,
School pupils in Scotland have begun returning to class

Schools began to open their doors to students last week, which means they could only have taken part in the scheme for a maximum of nine days.

In the north-east of Scotland, all school pupils can take advantage of the "eat out to help out" scheme, with Aberdeen City, Aberdeenshire and Moray all participating.

However, neighbouring authority Highland Council did not apply for the scheme, saying the cost, time and resources required to apply meant it was "not viable".

A Highland Council spokesperson said: "The council, and our providers, engaged in a dialogue and determined we do not have the capacity to make the significant changes to the system in the short period of time available before the scheme ends."

They added: "Factoring these challenges in, we decided not to enrol in the scheme and instead focus our resources on ensuring the service was operating effectively and in accordance with health and safety standards for the return of our pupils."