Scotland’s poorest families should be given additional cash benefits during the school holidays, according to the Poverty and Inequality Commission.
The recommendation, in a report published today, comes after the Scottish Government asked the independent body to consider the role of councils, social enterprise and the third sector in providing holiday care.
The report suggests that the cash top-up should at least match the equivalent costs of school meals.
Researchers highlighted financial pressures faced by families during the holidays, as well as a lack of opportunities for play and activities, social isolation and parenting challenges.
Douglas Hamilton, chair of the commission, said: “The holidays bring additional costs and challenges to already hard-pressed families. Free school meals are seen as a vital benefit for the rest of the year but are, in effect, withdrawn during school holidays at a time when families face the most financial pressures.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 report also found that the Scottish Government, the Convention of Scottish Local Authorities and local authorities should work together to expand holiday club provision, with nutritious food made available for all children from low income families.
Scottish charities – particularly those in Glasgow – have claimed holiday clubs serving hot meals are increasingly providing a lifeline service.
Peter Kelly, director of the Poverty Alliance, said: “In a society that believes in justice and compassion, it’s simply not right that so many parents don’t have enough money to buy food. Providing cash support to fill the gap left by free schools meals in the holidays would be a welcome step.” This story first featured on our sister site the i.