Extra funding boost for free school meals is welcomed

The Scottish government has extended support it is offering to those eligible for free school meals over the summer holidays.

The SNP administration previously announced an overall £30 million package to councils in March to provide free meals during lockdown.

But a further £27.6 million has now been allocated to offer further help to low income families.

The support, along with a similar commitment from the Westminster government, follows a campaign led by footballer Marcus Rashford.

It comes after The Shetland Times revealed the Covid-19 crisis was behind a 400 per cent spike in the number of children relying on support from the Lerwick foodbank.

Data from local authorities shows that, across the country, around 175,000 children and young people are currently receiving free school meals – or vouchers to buy meals.

The SNP administration in Edinburgh says the number has risen by 53,000 since the start of the Covid-19 pandemic.

It says the extra funding will also enable councils to continue supporting people facing “new or continuing barriers to accessing food” until the end of September.

That could help people asked to self-isolate through contact tracing.

The funding has been welcomed by isles MP Alistair Carmichael, who paid tribute to the commitment shown by the Manchester United striker.

Alistair Carmichael.

“I welcome the change agreed by the First Minister and by the UK government to support school meals for children through the summer,” the MP said.

“We have to recognise the extraordinary success brought about by Marcus Rashford’s campaign. Mr Rashford has used his star power to change the country for the better.

“We have to remember who this is all about as well – children in our community and around the country who will benefit from access to good, healthy food through the summer, whatever their circumstances.

“Looking after our children in this crisis is the least we can do. As Mr Rashford has said today – ‘look at what we can do when we come together’.”

Deputy First Minister and Education Secretary 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.

Click on image to enlarge

“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.”


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