Wednesday, 19 December 2018
Department of Employment Affairs and Social Protection
School Meals Programme
530. To ask the Minister for Employment Affairs and Social Protection the oversight provided over the administration of the urban schools meal programme and the school meals local projects scheme since 2016; the number of audits which have taken place; the number of audits in which irregularities were identified; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [54022/18]
The school meals programme provides funding towards the provision of meals for disadvantaged school children through two schemes - the statutory Urban School Meals Scheme (USMS) and the non-statutory School Meals (Local Projects) scheme (SMLPS).
Both schemes provided food to some 1,580 schools and organisations benefitting 250,000 children at a total cost of €54 million in 2018 representing an increase of €6.5 million over the previous year. The objective of the scheme is to provide regular, nutritious food to children who are unable, due to lack of good quality food, to take full advantage of the education provided to them. The programme is an important component of policies to encourage school attendance and extra educational achievement.
The SMLPS provides funding directly from this Department to primary schools, post-primary schools, special schools, local groups and voluntary not-for-profit organisations operating their own school meals projects.
The USMS for primary schools is operated by the Local Authorities in some 300 schools and benefits approximately 74,000 children. It is part-financed by this Department with €1.1m spent in 2017. Sixteen Local Authorities currently participate in the USMS providing €1.1m in matching funding for food costs, as well as funding their own non-food administration costs. This scheme is administered and operated by the Local Authorities and provides meals to primary schools only. This Department accepts the recommendations of Local Authorities for the inclusion of schools in the scheme and reimburses the Local Authorities for up to 50% of the food costs. It is up to the Local Authorities/ Department of Housing, Planning and Local Government to monitor expenditure and carry out any audits of the scheme.
In relation to the SMLPS, in recent years priority for new applications for funding had been given to schools which are part of the DEIS programme.
The Department commenced an inspection programme of schools participating in the SMLPS 2012 which involves on-site visits to the schools/organisations by Social Welfare Inspectors (SWIs). The inspection programme has since been expanded and a three year programme is in place since September 2015 to cover all schools. Since 2012 a total of 1,564 inspections have been carried out. The number of individual schools inspected is higher because some organisations provide services to a number of schools, e.g. a School Completion Programme could support any number of schools but is treated as one organisation for inspection purposes. Details of the outcome of the inspection process are shared with the Department of Education and Skills (DES).
Some 300 organisations participate in both the USMS and the SMLPS. Of those organisations inspected in 2016 and 2017, 31 and 47 respectively participated in both the USMS and SMLPS.
Inspection results show a high rate of compliance with the terms and conditions of the Scheme.
Issues arising in “Partially-Compliant” and “Non-Compliant” organisations indicate non-compliance with specific scheme criteria e.g. unhealthy food items being supplied, inadequate accounting procedures in place, poor record keeping.
Each organisation is contacted directly by School Meals Section and given detailed feedback on areas of non-compliance as well as the Department’s follow-up actions. These organisations must provide evidence that issues raised have been addressed, within a timescale set by the Department. School Meals Scheme Section is informed of the issues and future applications for funding from these organisations are monitored for compliance with Scheme terms and conditions. Follow-up site visits are carried out by the Department’s Inspectorate. The number of inspections carried out and the results are detailed in the Appendix.
The 2018 inspections are being currently being reviewed and analysed. Thus far, there are no indications of serious irregularities.
Table 1: School Meals Scheme Inspections 2016 – 2017:
|Year||Number of inspections||Total|
Table 2: Compliance rates among School Meals Scheme participants 2016-2017:
|Year||Compliant (%)||Partially Compliant (%)||Non-Compliant (%)|