COVID-19: Together joins charities in calling for cash payments in lieu of free school meals

Date: 9th April 2020
Category: Basic Health and Welfare

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A joint letter to the First Minister, coordinated by Child Poverty Action Group (CPAG) in Scotland and supported by Together, called for a dignified response upon the closure of schools.

Around 240,000 children are living in poverty in Scotland. With nearly 270,00 pupils registered to receive free school meals last year alone and 188,000 taking this up. The joint letter highlighted that free school meals can save families with two children £20 a week. Accordingly, school closures due to COVID-19 bring additional costs which may be unmanageable for some families.

The letter welcomed the support announced by Scottish Government on 18th March 2020. This included a £70 million Food Fund which will be used to support households who may be worried about accessing food. Funding has been distributed to local authorities who will have discretion as to how the support is provided in their area.

The letter calls for support to be provided via a cash payment. In this way, families are not limited to certain shops where they can purchase food as is the case with voucher schemes. This is increasingly important, given the reduction of public transport services and panic buying leaving shelves empty. A cash payment would also give families the option of directing the money towards other increased costs due to families spending more time at home (e.g. electricity and heating bills). The letter states “cash payments would be a dignified response, respectful of human rights and avoiding any potential stigma” for children and their families.

To date, local authorities across Scotland have taken a variety of approaches to distributing support. According to information available on their websites, some are making direct payments, others are providing lunch boxes to be collected from school buildings, and some are planning voucher schemes.

Information on schemes developed by other countries within the UK to keep children from going hungry during the Covid-19 outbreak.