Anti-poverty campaigners in new call for councils to make cash payments to hard up families as schools close
Campaigners are again urging the Scottish Government to work with local authorities to ensure a dignified, cash payment to families currently in receipt of free school meals once schools close this week. The call follows Cabinet Secretary John Swinney telling Parliament today (Thursday 19th March) that, in the face of Covid-19 closures, “multiple options (for continued provision of free school meals) are being planned for by local authorities”.
John Dickie, Director of Child Poverty Action Group in Scotland, one of the groups behind the call, said:
"It’s right that there is flexibility at local level to ensure children, including the most vulnerable, continue to be supported, but this must be underpinned by support for all low income families. While we welcome the commitment to continuing provision of free school meals, we believe, along with the dozens of charities, parents groups, unions and churches who wrote to the First Minister yesterday, that cash payment is the best way to give families the certainty and flexibility they need to deal with the extra cost of school closures”.
“We urge local authorities and the Scottish government to work together to ensure a consistent bedrock of cash support is available to all families currently entitled to free school meals."
Yesterday, an open letter from a coalition of children's charities, parents groups, teaching unions, churches and academics wrote to the First Minister asking her to ensure cash payments are made to families currently in receipt of free school meals.
The signatories, including the Church of Scotland, the EIS teaching union, Poverty Alliance, Oxfam Scotland, the National Parent Forum, Child Poverty Action Group, One Parent Families Scotland and Citizens Advice Scotland stated that:
“we believe the most effective way to protect families from the additional pressure that loss of free school meals will create will be to make cash payments to families currently in receipt of free school meals."
The campaigners have welcomed the Scottish Government’s efforts to ensure those facing an income crisis have access to cash-based support via the substantial rise to the Scottish Welfare Fund and believe this cash-based approach should be extended to those facing the withdrawal of free school meals.
Jamie Livingstone, Head of Oxfam Scotland, today said:
"We recognise and welcome the Scottish Government’s efforts to ensure those facing an income crisis have access to cash-based support via the substantial rise to the Scottish Welfare Fund and feel this cash-based approach should be extended to those facing the withdrawal of free school meals."
The Deputy First Minister’s statement in full.
The open letter is available here.
For further details or interviews contact John Dickie on 07795 340 618