Coronavirus: Cash call for free school meal families

Teaching union, charities, churches and parent groups call for families to be given a cash payment in lieu of free school meals

Tes Reporter

Coronavirus: Cash call for free school meal families

Scotland's largest teaching union, charities, churches and parents groups have banded together to call for families in Scotland to be given a cash payment in lieu of free school meals, after it was announced schools will close from Friday.

They have written to first minister Nicola Sturgeon, warning that "low-income families are already struggling to make ends meet" and that the additional cost of providing lunch will be "a significant, and in many cases unmanageable, financial pressure on families".

Ms Sturgeon announced on Wednesday afternoon that schools across Scotland would close by the end of the week, having lost too many staff amid the coronavirus outbreak to continue as normal. Later, communities secretary Aileen Campbell revealed a £350 million coronavirus support package.

Coronavirus: 'Home-deliver free school meals'

Background: Coronavirus – Scotland's schools to close this week

Related: Coronavirus – Thousands of pupils to get food vouchers

News: Coronavirus – Johnson's school meal 'plan' under fire

Short read: Coronavirus – education boss flags safeguarding concerns

Signatories to the letter include the EIS teaching union, the Church of Scotland, the National Parent Forum, the Child Poverty Action Group in Scotland, One Parent Families Scotland and Citizens Advice Scotland.

They said: "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."

Ms Campbell announced that almost £100 million would go to Scotland's councils to help deal with the pandemic.

An additional £70 million Food Fund has been created to "support households who may be worried about accessing food whether due to an income drop or self-isolating", she said.

Education secretary John Swinney is due to give a statement to Parliament this afternoon on measures being put in place regarding education in light of the coronavirus outbreak.

Earlier, the Scottish government said among the priority groups it is working with local authorities to mitigate the impact on are "vulnerable pupils and those receiving free school meals".

Yesterday, the Scottish Green party proposed that workers from libraries, leisure centres and schools closed as a result of the coronavirus outbreak should be called upon to deliver free school meals directly to the homes of disadvantaged children.

For live Twitter updates from John Swinney's statement, follow @TesScotland, @Emma_Seith and @Henry_Hepburn from 1.45pm

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