Categories
Children Education Health

SNP Announce Free School Meals For All Primary School Pupils

“Progressive vision to tackle poverty in the face of Tory cuts”

SNP MSP Joe FitzPatrick has welcomed the announcement that every primary school pupil in Dundee will be eligible for free school meals, all year around, if the SNP is re-elected in May.

Deputy First Minister, John Swinney, set out this latest step in the drive to tackle child poverty and make Scotland the first nation in the UK to offer universal free primary school meals at the SNP annual conference this weekend.

The SNP previously extended eligibility for a free school lunch to all P1 to P3 pupils while P4 to P7 pupils are eligible based on a range of income and benefits criteria.

Now, in the face of predictions that Westminster cuts will drive child poverty rates even higher, the expansion – estimated to cost around £230 million per year in additional expenditure – will introduce a free year-round breakfast and lunch for all primary school pupils from August 2022.

SNP MSP Joe FitzPatrick said:

“The Covid-19 pandemic has put real financial pressure on families, and it’s right that the Scottish Government ensured that children in Dundee would continue to receive free school meals over the holidays.

“But we will not stop there. If the SNP is re-elected in May, every single primary school pupil in Dundee will be eligible for free breakfast and lunch, all year round.

“And unlike the Tories, we didn’t have to be publicly shamed and condemned into choosing to feed hungry children – that is the basic duty of any government.

“This ambitious expansion of the free school meals scheme is the next step in our battle to stop the Tories forcing more and more kids into poverty, support families, and make Scotland the best place to grow up.

“That progressive vision, underpinned by human rights, equality and wellbeing, is exactly why people in Scotland continue to put their faith in the SNP.”

Categories
Coronavirus Education Social Security

Funding For Those Who Need It Most

Over £30 million to tackle financial insecurity.

A £30 million package of funding is being made available to local authorities to support people facing financial hardship as a result of coronavirus (COVID-19), including money to provide free school meals over the school holidays.

Local authorities will be given flexibility to use £20 million, previously held in reserve for the Scottish Welfare Fund, to support people in their communities.

A further £10 million has been made available so councils can continue providing free school meals through the winter breaks with future funding confirmed to extend support over Easter.

Cabinet Secretary for Social Security and Older People Shirley-Anne Somerville said:

“No one should be struggling to put food on the table, keep the lights on, or stay warm at home in the midst of this pandemic. With continuing uncertainty around Brexit and the furlough scheme being scaled back we are doing all we can to ensure the right support gets to people at the right time in the right way.

“We know a healthy meal during the school day helps children to learn – but right now it’s an essential to support families at such a difficult time. This money will offer nutritious free meals for children or allow families to get food they desperately need.

“Those experiencing financial hardship can currently apply to the Scottish Welfare Fund and seek advice on which benefits they can receive. However, this will not be suitable for everyone: some people are not eligible for crisis grants or already receive the full benefits they are entitled to, while others may need immediate support with food and essentials.

“We are giving local authorities greater flexibility over funding held in reserve for the Scottish Welfare Fund, to support local action and address people’s needs. This may include supplementing local budgets for the Scottish Welfare Fund to meet demand, providing financial support to tackle food insecurity or to meet fuel costs, or boosting local funding for Discretionary Housing Payments.

“Additionally we are making further resource available to continue the provision of Free School Meals over forthcoming holidays, including Easter.”

Chair of the Poverty and Inequality Commission Bill Scott, said:

“We welcome this much needed additional help for low income families and individuals. The funding for Free School Meals during the Christmas, February and Easter breaks will come as a great relief for many hard pressed parents.

“We would urge local authorities to use the flexibility given to them by Scottish Government to ensure that every penny of extra help available gets to those who need it most.”

COSLA’s spokesperson for Resources Councillor Gail Macgregor, and spokesperson for Community Wellbeing Councillor Kelly Parry said:

“The impacts of the virus have not been felt equally across society and we welcome this funding which can be used flexibly by councils, enabling them to provide more support for those who need it most in our communities.

“Local authorities will deploy it in ways that best meets local circumstance, to provide the most effective support to those experiencing financial hardship, for example through grants, addressing food insecurity, or support for fuel costs. We know that as winter arrives and the furlough scheme draws to a close unfortunately more adults and children are likely to need assistance to ensure they are fed and warm. Local Government is the anchor in our communities and is able to provide advice, support and assistance to those that need it.”

Background

On 18 March the Communities Secretary announced £350 million of funding to support communities at risk as a result of the pandemic.

This included a £45 million boost to the Scottish Welfare Fund, of which £22 million was allocated immediately to local authorities, increasing the available budget for awards in 2020-21 to £57.5 million. A further £3 million has been committed as an increase to the budget available for Discretionary Housing Payments.

By enabling local authorities to be more flexible in the way they use this remaining £20 million we are ensuring that they can support those with No Recourse to Public Funds who are destitute and do not have access to mainstream benefits.

The Scottish Government provided local authorities with additional resource to provide Free School Meals over the Easter and the summer holidays. By the end of the summer period 156,000 children were benefitting from this support, having peaked at around 175,000 prior to summer, providing vital support to protect the health and wellbeing of children.

Local authorities who continued Free School Meal provision over October holidays will be reimbursed through this funding package.

Categories
Coronavirus Education

Free school meals extended

Additional £27.6 million to help feed pupils and other key groups.

Children eligible for free school meals will be among those who continue to be supported over the summer through a package of £27.6 million of additional funding from the Scottish Government.

The funding will ensure councils are able to continue the provision of free school meals during the summer holidays and other food provision to help low income families during the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic. 

The latest data from local authorities shows that around 175,000 children and young people are currently receiving free school meals – or vouchers or cash payments to buy meals.

The number of children receiving free school food has risen by 53,000 since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic due to the impact of the pandemic on family incomes and financial circumstances.

The extra funding will also enable councils to continue to support a range of people who may be facing new or continuing barriers to accessing food including due to reduced income caused if they are asked to self-isolate through contact tracing – until the end of September.

This funding is in addition to the overall package of £30 million allocated to councils in March to provide free school meals and offer food provision to key groups during lockdown.

Deputy First Minister and Cabinet Secretary for Education and Skills John Swinney said:

“These are challenging times for families and economic uncertainty has added even more pressure on parents already dealing with the stress of this dire COVID-19 crisis.

“We want to ensure families are given the same support through the summer holidays as we provide in term time in recognition of this unprecedented situation. That is why free school meals provision is essential to support families, children and young people who need some extra help at this difficult time.

“This significant additional funding will allow councils to plan for the summer and to continue the existing provision, whether that be offering nutritious free meals for children or through more direct means allowing families to get food for their families. Councils will have the flexibility to ensure they are able to use this additional funding to put in place provision that meets local needs and circumstances.

“£15 million of this funding is being made available to ensure we continue supporting the range of households who have been or may experience difficulty in accessing or affording food during the pandemic. We know that people are under pressure just now as they cope with the impact of COVID-19 and this funding shows we are doing all we can to help them at this difficult time. This funding is additional to the £350 million we have already made available.”

Background

Since 24 March councils have provided the Scottish Government with data on the number of children receiving a free school meal through the provision of vouchers, direct payments, home deliveries and provision in educational or early years settings. 

Individuals who are unable to access or afford food and cannot get the help they need from family, friends or neighbours are encouraged to call the national assistance helpline. The free helpline number is 0800 111 4000, or can be contacted via a textphone on 0800 111 4114. The helpline is open Monday to Friday, from 9am to 5pm.

Callers will be put through to speak to someone at their local council. They’ll be able to advise on what types of help are available. This might include:

  • food, if you’re not able to get the day-to-day food you need
  • medication, if you’re not able to pick up the prescriptions you need
  • access to local social work services
  • emotional support
  • contact with local volunteer groups