Scottish Government expansion of free school meals & childcare
Date: 7th January 2014
Category: Family Environment and Alternative Care, Basic Health and Welfare
The Scottish Government will extend free school meals to all P1-3 pupils in Scotland and extend free childcare provision to every two-year-old from a workless household.
Free school meals
In the announcement made on 7th January 2014, the Scottish Government stated that the offer of a free school meal to all P1-P3 pupils in Scotland is hoped to improve health and wellbeing, increase attainment and save families approximately £330 a year for each child.
Reacting to the announcement, Children in Scotland's Chief Executive Jackie Brock said:
"This is a welcome investment to tackle hunger and poverty faced by many as well as representing a long-term investment in improving the health and learning of all our children. We fully support this step towards tackling Scotland's record of our children being amongst the most obese and unfit children in the world."
John Dickie, head of Child Poverty Action Group in Scotland (CPAG) also welcomed the announcement, releasing the following:
"A universal approach to healthy free school lunches provides a huge boost to children and parents at a time when they are under increasing pressure from tax credit and benefit cuts, soaring food and energy prices and stagnating wages."
The announcement follows calls from children's charities, anti-poverty campaigners, the Church of Scotland and unions representing teachers, caterers and working parents for the First Minister to confirm that all children in primary 1 to 3 will be entitled to a healthy free school lunch.
Speaking during a parliamentary debate on poverty and the early years, the First Minister, Mr Salmond, also announced that free childcare provision would be expanded to every two year-old from a workless household in Scotland - around 8,400 children or 15 per cent of all two year-olds - by August this year.
By August 2015, free childcare provision would be extended further by widening entitlement to families that received certain welfare benefits such as Jobseeker's Allowance.
During consultation and Parliamentary debate of the current Children and Young People (Scotland) Bill, some of Together's members including Children in Scotland and Save the Children, have campaigned for the extension of childcare provision to two year olds.
Children in Scotland have welcomed the announcement as a step in the right direction and now urge the Government to establish the logistics of such provisions with quality, accessibility and suitability as paramount.