The advice from the Poverty and Inequality Commission comes after the Scottish Government asked the independent body to consider the role of local authorities, social enterprise and the third sector in providing after school and holiday care and responding to school holiday food insecurity.
Chair of the Poverty and Inequality Commission, Douglas Hamilton said:
“School holidays make up a quarter of the year, so it is no surprise that they can create significant pressures for Scotland’s poorest families around finances, food, opportunities for play, social isolation and parenting.
“The holidays bring additional costs and challenges to already hard-pressed families, particularly over the six-week summer break and at Christmas. Free school meals are seen as a vital benefit for the rest of the year but are, in effect, withdrawn during school holidays at a time when families face the most financial pressures.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 suggests that the amount should be set at a level that at least matches the equivalent costs of school meals.
The report highlights that families face a range of pressures as well as the financial including a lack of opportunities for play and activities, social isolation, and parenting challenges.
In response to these challenges, The Commission made two further recommendations:
- The Scottish Government, COSLA and local authorities should work together to take a strategic approach to developing and funding a coordinated package of school holiday support that addresses the full range of pressures faced by families with low incomes.
- Building from existing services, holiday club provision, with nutritious and culturally appropriate food as a core element, should be available for all children from low income families.
The Poverty and Inequality Commission was asked by the Scottish Government to consider whether there are actions in Every Child, Every Chance: The Tackling Child Poverty Delivery Plan 2018-22 that should be developed in tandem in order to maximise their effectiveness. In particular, the Commission was asked to consider the role of local authorities, social enterprise and the third sector in providing after school and holiday care and responding to school holiday food insecurity. The Commission was asked to consider how relevant commitments could best be delivered to complement each other.
About the Poverty and Inequality Commission
The Commission provides independent advice to ministers and has a strong scrutiny role in monitoring progress towards tackling poverty and inequality.
It has an advocacy role to help bring about real reductions in poverty and inequality in Scotland. The Commission is independent of the Scottish Government.
Chair: Douglas Hamilton
Douglas Hamilton is currently training to be a Minister with the Church of Scotland. His previous roles include being Director of the RS Macdonald Charitable Trust, and head of Save the Children in Scotland. Between 2013 and 2016, Douglas was a member of the Commission on Social Mobility and Child Poverty and has also served on the Scottish Ministerial Advisory Group on Child Poverty.
Douglas is a former Chair of the Scottish Alliance for Children’s Rights, has been on the board of One Parent Families Scotland and helped lead the Coalition to End Child Poverty (ECP) in Scotland. He also previously chaired the management committee of the Lothian Equal Access Programme for Schools (LEAPS).
A law graduate from Edinburgh University, Douglas’ career began at the Scottish Human Rights Centre and he subsequently took on policy and research roles with Children in Scotland, the Convention of Scottish Local Authorities (COSLA) and Barnardo’s. Away from work Douglas helps organise children’s and youth activities through his local church.