Poverty Commission recommends extra cash for poor families during school holidays
Extra money should be given to Scotland’s poorest families to help them provide for children during the school holidays, a new report recommends.
The advice from the Poverty and Inequality Commission comes after the Scottish Government asked the independent body to consider the role of local authorities, social enterprise and the third sector in providing after school and holiday care and responding to holiday hunger.
The report makes three recommendations, which includes the additional cash benefit for families during holiday periods, which should be set at a level that at least matches the equivalent costs of school meals.
It also states that the Scottish Government, COSLA and local authorities should work together to develop and fund a coordinated package of school holiday support which addresses the full range of pressures faced by families with low incomes.
And the report recommends that holiday club provision, with nutritious and culturally appropriate food as a core element, should be available for all children from low-income families.
Chair of the Poverty and Inequality Commission Douglas Hamilton said: “School holidays make up a quarter of the year, so it is no surprise that they can create significant pressures for Scotland’s poorest families around finances, food, opportunities for play, social isolation and parenting.
“The holidays bring additional costs and challenges to already hard-pressed families, particularly over the six-week summer break and at Christmas.
“Free school meals are seen as a vital benefit for the rest of the year but are, in effect, withdrawn during school holidays at a time when families face the most financial pressures.
“The Commission believes that money is the most dignified way to respond to food insecurity, offering families choice in how to meet their needs.
“That’s why our report recommends that the Scottish Government introduce an additional cash benefit during school holiday periods in recognition of the additional costs that families face.”
The commission report recognised that families face a range of pressures during the school holidays.
As well as food insecurity and childcare, there are also issues relating to wider finances, play and activities, parenting, and social isolation.
There are already some successful examples of services and projects meeting the needs of families in local areas, with a lot of them offering food as a core element but also offering play and activities and sometimes other supports to families.
The commission heard, however, that this type of provision was not available consistently across the country and that there was a lack of co-ordination, leading to gaps, duplication and people being unaware of what is available.