Denbighshire school dinners debt letter 'still intimidating'

School mealsImage source, Reuters
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Denbighshire will ask for payment in advance to ensure school meal debts do not occur

Council officers have again been told to tone down the letters they send to parents over school meal debts.

Denbighshire County Council hit the headlines last year when one parent was told she would be reported to social services if she did not pay £13 owed.

Councillor Glenn Swingler said a draft new letter with bold and underlined sections was "almost as intimidating" and needed more sympathetic wording.

Officers agreed to redraft the letter before they start to use it.

The council was also criticised over a second letter which warned parents their children would not be given Christmas dinner at school if their debts were not cleared.

After the authority apologised for the gaffes, officers have come up with a new policy to take the sting out of dealing with parents who had fallen behind on their payments.

Families will be asked to pay in advance for school meals so there will be no debt.

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Councillor Glenn Swingler said the updated letter still displayed a "pay now or else" attitude

Staff will also be asked to ensure that support is provided so that no child is deprived of their school meal.

But councillors who were shown a draft template for the letter to be sent out in such circumstances were still critical, according to the Local Democracy Reporting Service.

Councillor Swingler said he found it "almost as intimidating as the previous one" with a similar "pay now or else" attitude.

"It's how we are doing this in bold type and underlining parts of the letter," he said.

"Perhaps if you started the letter with something like, 'We understand you may be going through some financial issues please contact the school and advice on what they can do'.

"I don't think we have improved this letter at all."

Huw Hilditch-Roberts, the cabinet member for education, said the council had "recognised the policy was outdated and needed to be made relevant to the modern world".

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