Open letter on the impact of Covid-19 school closures | CPAG

Open letter on the impact of Covid-19 school closures

Published on: 
18 March 2020

Dear First Minister,

We are writing to you as a matter of urgency regarding the impact of the Covid-19 crisis on low income families, and specifically the imminent impact of school closures on children currently receiving free school meals. As you are aware, free school lunches can save a family with two children over £20 a week. With children having to stay at home from next week, the additional cost of providing lunch will be a significant, and in many cases unmanageable, financial pressure on families. Low income families are already struggling to make ends meet and free school meals play a vital role in relieving pressure on family budgets.

Building on the welcome support announced today by the Cabinet Secretary for Communities, 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.

We believe support in the face of the Covid-19 crisis must be provided in a way that gives families the choice and agency to meet their family's needs in this exceptional time. A cash payment in lieu of free school meals would be a dignified response, respectful of human rights and avoiding any potential stigma.

We believe there are various legal and payment mechanisms that should be explored to enable this to happen using the information and payment mechanisms currently used to register for free school meals and make school clothing grant payment, and the legal powers available to safeguard and promote the welfare of children. We would be very happy to discuss what approach would work most effectively; though there is an over-riding need for fast measures to be put in place.

We are keenly aware that this is just one of the many pressures families will face in the forthcoming weeks and that a cash payment in lieu of free school meals will need to be part of a far wider package to support families and protect children's wellbeing. However, we urge you to work together with local government to deliver this specific cash payment to support families with the additional cost of lunch during the period of school closure.


Yours sincerely,


John Dickie, Director of Child Poverty Action Group (CPAG) in Scotland

Satwat Rehman, Director, One Parent Families Scotland

Sally Witcher, CEO, Inclusion Scotland

Peter Kelly, Director, Poverty Alliance

Emma Revie, Chief Executive, Trussell Trust

Most Rev Mark Strange, Bishop of Moray, Ross and Caithness and Primus of the Scottish Episcopal Church

Derek Mitchell, Chief Executive, Citizens Advice Scotland

Jim McCormick, Associate Director for Scotland, Joseph Rowntree Foundation

Martin Crewe, Director, Barnado's Scotland

Very Rev Dr Susan Brown, Convener of the Faith Impact Forum, the Church of Scotland

Larry Flanagan, General Secretary, Educational Institute of Scotland

Claire Telfer, Head of Scotland, Save the Children

Mary Glasgow, Chief Executive, Children First

Jackie Brock, Chief Executive, Children in Scotland

Jamie Livingstone, Head of Oxfam Scotland

Bishop Nolan, President of Justice and Peace Scotland

Pete Ritchie, Executive Director, Nourish Scotland

Professor Ian Welsh OBE, Chief Executive, Health and Social Care Alliance Scotland (the ALLIANCE)

Dr Neil Henery, Director, Camphill Scotland

Sally Ann Kelly, Chief Executive, Aberlour Child Care Trust

Norman Kerr, Director, Energy Action Scotland

Paul Carberry, National Director, Action for Children

Eileen Prior, Executive Director, Connect

Joanna Murphy, Chair, National Parent Forum of Scotland

Rev Dr David A Pickering, Moderator of The United Reformed Church National Synod of Scotland

Shaben Begum, Director, SIAA

Dr. Marsha Scott, Chief Executive Officer, Scottish Women’s Aid

Jane Brumpton, Chief Executive, Early Years Scotland

Frank Mosson, Bureau Manager, Bridgeton Citizens Advice Bureau

Easterhouse Housing & Regeneration Alliance

Tim Frew, Chief Executive, Youthlink Scotland

Juliet Harris, Director, Together Scotland

Sheila Gordon, Director – Children & Family Services, CrossReach

Douglas Guest, Acting Director for Scotland, Home-Start UK Scotland

Graeme McAlister, Chief Executive, Scottish Childminding Association

Marguerite Hunter Blair, Chief Executive, Play Scotland

Kate Wimpress, Chair, SURF - Scotland's Regeneration Forum

Craig Samuel, NAWRA Scotland Representative

Virginia Radcliffe, CEO, Licketyspit

Kirsten Cook, Affordable Warmth Team Manager, Changeworks

Anne Meikle, Scottish Women's Budget Group

Jimmy Wilson, CEO, FARE

Susan Archibald Disability Rights Activist, Archibald Foundation

Marie Ward, Cranhill Development Trust

Bernard Harris, Professor of Social Policy, University of Strathclyde

Prof. Stephen Sinclair, Scottish Poverty & Inequality Research Unit

Adrian Sinfield, Professor Emeritus of Social Policy, University of Edinburgh

Prof Morag Treanor, Heriot-Watt University

Professor Nick Watson, University of Glasgow

Dr Serena Pattaro, University of Glasgow

Dr Ruth Patrick, University of York

Dr Hayley Bennett, University of Edinburgh

Sharon Wright, University of Edinburgh

Suzanne Fitzpatrick, Director, Institute for Social Policy, Housing, and Equalities Research, Heriot-Watt University

Kat Smith, Professor of Public Health Policy, University of Strathclyde

Professor Mark Stephens, Director, The Urban Institute, Heriot-Watt University

Professor Glen Bramley, Professor of Urban Studies, Heriot-Watt University

Dr Jenny Wood, Research Associate, Heriot-Watt University

Angela O’Hagan, WISE Centre for Economic Justice at Glasgow Caledonian University